Five Nominees Win Recommendations, Mills Backs Testimony
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ A Senate committee recommended five nominees for the state’s lottery governing board Friday after allegations that a top aide to Gov. Buddy Roemer hid potentially damaging information from the panel.
The action came after several weeks of on-again, off-again hearings that exploded Thursday when the state police commander testified Roemer’s top aide told him to delete information from a background check sent to the committee.
Senate President Samuel Nunez said the coverup damaged the start of Louisiana’s lottery, the first since Congress shut down a corrupt private lottery nearly a century ago.
″The lottery demanded a clean beginning and this happened,″ Nunez said.
He said the full Senate will meet Monday to vote on the nominees.
Roemer’s chief of staff, P.J. Mills, said Friday he told the truth when he denied ordering the deletion. Mills said he has hired an attorney because of ″inaccurate remarks and unsubstantiated opinions″ voiced by Lewis Unglesby, a special counsel to the committee.
Unglesby suggested Thursday that action be taken against Mills following testimony that unsubstantiated allegations against a lottery commission nominee were covered up by the Roemer administration. He also said the committee could demand an apology from Roemer.
The committee could cite Mills for contempt or turn the case over to state prosecutors for further investigation, Unglesby said.
Col. Marlin Flores, state police commander, said Mills told him to keep from the Senate information concerning allegations of narcotics and questionable money that surfaced in the investigation of Shreveport lawyer Robert Piper.
The allegations were unsubstantiated, committee members said. Piper withdrew his nomination Wednesday, citing a possible conflict of interest between lottery duties and contracts he has to represent state agencies.
Sen. Armand Brinkhaus, the acting chairman, Brinkhaus said Senate staff members would study reams of testimony and he planned to convene the panel again during the week of Jan. 21.
Brinkhaus said there was a possibility that Roemer would be subpoenaed to testify in light of the governor’s statements that all information on the nominees was turned over to the Senate.
″If he continues to make those statements, we’re going to get him down here and get him on the record,″ Brinkhaus said.
″Personally, I believe what Col. Flores had to say,″ Brinkhaus said.
The matter involving Piper was brought up during a meeting between Flores and Mills after an initial state police investigation turned up the allegation, Flores said. Flores said he told Mills that the information would surface when Senate investigators checked out Piper.
According to Flores, Mills said: ″If they do, let them do that. We don’t need to do it.″