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Louisiana attorney general targets governor’s board choices

September 25, 2018

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry lashed out at the governor in a new legal quarrel Tuesday, suing to invalidate Gov. John Bel Edwards’ appointments to a local water regulatory commission.

The Republican attorney general filed the lawsuit in Natchitoches Parish against the Red River Waterway Commission, saying the Democratic governor improperly selected two of its members. The two statewide elected officials have repeatedly sparred since each took office in 2016, with Landry considering a run against Edwards for governor next year.

The new lawsuit targets Edwards’ refusal to appoint Carolyn Prator to the water commission despite her nomination by local officials. Prator is married to the Caddo Parish sheriff who has repeatedly criticized Edwards’ criminal justice overhaul.

The governor’s office insists that the appointment decisions weren’t about political reprisal and that they followed the law, noting that Prator is serving as one of Edwards’ picks on a separate levee board. Landry disagrees that the law was upheld and wants the appointments thrown out and Prator appointed to one of the waterway commission seats.

“While many have made this issue political, I remain consistent that this is solely about fairness and the rule of law,” Landry said in a statement. “Northwest Louisiana must be treated fairly and the law must be followed.”

The 11-member Red River Waterway Commission represents seven parishes in northwest and central Louisiana: Avoyelles, Bossier, Caddo, Grant, Natchitoches, Rapides and Red River. It has seven district seats and four at-large seats.

At issue in Landry’s lawsuit is Edwards’ decision to shuffle a board member from an at-large seat to a district seat, rather than give the seat to Prator, and then fill the at-large seat with someone else, retired Col. Michael Deville of Rapides Parish.

The governor’s office said Edwards made the move to ensure more racial and geographic diversity on the waterway commission. Deville is black, and his appointment gave Rapides and Caddo parishes each two seats on the panel.

“This is typical Jeff Landry. He shoots first and aims later, except this time, he’s wasting taxpayer resources,” Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo said in a statement. “It’s clear from reviewing his latest lawsuit that he has his facts wrong. All of Gov. Edwards’ appointments to the Red River Waterway Commission were made legally and within his authority.”

Landry’s lawsuit says the governor wasn’t able to reshuffle the appointees like he did and was required to follow the local nomination suggestion of Prator to the board.

Two Shreveport lawmakers, Republican Sen. Barrow Peacock and Democratic Sen. Greg Tarver, questioned whether Edwards followed the law governing the commission appointments. They sought an opinion from Landry, which he issued a week before filing the lawsuit.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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