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Aaron Broussard payroll fraud investigation

aaron broussard – guilty pleaAaron Broussard, his wife Karen Parker, and former parish attorney Tom Wilkinson are charged in a 33-count indictment.

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broussard-aaron-400×225The indictment of former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard last week for parish payroll fraud appears to be just the beginning of the Feds’ crackdown on political corruption in the parish. Broussard, his ex-wife Karen Parker, and former parish attorney Tom Wilkinson are all accused of bilking the parish out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The 33-count indictment lays out the scheme in vivid detail. It was nepotism at it’s finest. Essentially, Broussard set up his wife in a well-paying parish job that she was not trained to do. It tripled her salary even though she did not have the proper degree to normally get such a position. The then-parish attorney also benefited with increased salary beyond what was appropriate and required.

What’s interesting: this particular indictment will only be the first of possibly several coming from the Feds for Broussard and company. Let’s not forget about the alleged fraud that started it all: the West Jeff hospital insurance scam with former parish 2nd in command Tim Wittmer and Broussard.  Throw in the River Birch landfill debacle and you’ve got major problems for Broussard and his crew and for Jefferson Parish in general.

The indictments of Broussard and his friends are painful for residents in Jefferson Parish but they are a positive step in ridding the parish of political corruption that has been plaguing Jefferson for far too long.

broussard-aaron-400×225A 33 count indictment was down against Broussard, his former wife Karen Parker and former Parish Attorney, Tom Wilkinson. The attorney for former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard said they will fight the conspiracy, theft and fraud charges.

The government contends Broussard and Wilkinson devised a scheme to defraud and hire Parker, who was a former assistant to Broussard and later became his wife.

At the urging of Broussard, Wilkinson hired Parker as a paralegal, but paid her well above every other paralegal. According to the government Parker had no paralegal experience.

The indictment also point out, Wilkinson’s pay increased 80% during Broussard’s tenure as Parish President. So in other words as Parker’s salary increased so did Wilkinson.

“The charges are serious,” said Defense Attorney Pat Fannin.

Fannin said it seems as though the government is using this indictment to catch bigger fish., those involved in the River Birch landfill investigation. Back in 2009 the River Birch signed a $160 million contract with the parish. It was learned later that the insrance company owned by Broussard’s top aide, Tim Whitmer, had business dealings with River Birch.

The government is looking at that being one of the reasons River Birch landed that big contract.

Fannin represents Whitmer. Fannin said the good news today is that his client was not indicted.

captureJefferson Parish has a new president. John Young officially took office today in Gretna.

Before friends, family and a packed council chamber, John Young became Jefferson Parish’s 10th elected leader. Young says he’s got a tough job ahead of him explaining, “Our first priority will be to work together and together we will work to restore the confidence and trust in the parish government.”

That trust was tested when former president Aaron Broussard quit amidst a federal investigation into allegations of improprieties in his administration. Young says the investigation is on-going, but he won’t keep anything from the people. “I pledge to, and pledge to my colleagues on the council that we will continue to cooperate with the federal authorities in the investigation and we will work towards resolving the issues that remain” Young says.

And Broussard’s replacement, Steve Theriot says it was a challenging nine months filling in, but now he’s ready to hand over the reigns to young. “It took a unified effort to deal with the many revelations and unexpected events that we were confronted with throughout my tenure as parish president” Theriot says.

Young says he’ll work 24/7 to move the parish forward…he wants to re-vamp Fat City, bring more jobs to the Avondale shipyard and find money in the 2011 budget to create an inspector general’s office. Now, he’s got the next 14 months to do it.

John Young will only be in office for 14 months, because he’s filling Aaron Broussard’s vacated second term. Young will have to run for re-election if he wants to serve for another term.

captureJefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard has resigned his position effective 6 p.m. Friday.

This news comes amid allegations that he is renting property in Nova Scotia to contractors who deal with the parish.

ABC26 Political Analyst Jeff Crouere spoke with Jocelyn Lockwood about what this means for Broussard:

“He’s got a lot to focus on. He’s got investigations that are going on that he needs to deal with. He’s got a lot of other problems. He needs to focus on the legal issues and sort of mitigate the political damage that he’s been facing. He’s really been hit hard by a number of scandals over the past few months.”

Q: Could this be connected the scandal involving former CAO Tim Whitmer?

“Well, sure. The whole Whitmer scandal was very bad for Broussard. People were wondering why he didn’t fire Whitmer a long time ago. And then, when they find out about the rental property, that raised questions about a whole other issue. Then, it seems like he was considering his position to be part-time. So, the more that we devled into it the more problems that were created for Aaron Broussard. This is a way for him to sort of get out of the political firestorm and deal with all the legal issues and the investigations that are now going to be coming his way. I don’t think this is going to be ending any time soon. They’ve got a lot that they’re looking into right now.”

Q: Do you see this as career ending? Could he ever continue on in a political position?

“I think this is career ending for Aaron Broussard. I think this was going to be his final election, anyway, his final term. But it is a fall from grace for a gentleman who just a few years ago was considered untouchable. And then Katrina happened, a lot of people didn’t think he was going to win re-election. He did, he surprised folks, he got re-elected, but the last few months have been probably the worst few months of his political career, and I don’t see him running for office in the future.”

Q: Do you think this mars his appointment of Jose Gonzalez as CAO in any way?

“Well, I think it certainly does raise questions about anyone associated with Aaron Broussard. Until we know the full extent of what he was involved in, until his name is cleared. And it really hasn’t been cleared yet. So, anyone that has been appointed by Broussard certainly is going to face scrutiny and questions are going to be asked. And I think the council is going to want to have as much say as possible now in the running of Jefferson Parish and they need to step up and really take a more active position, now that of course, there’s going to be a vacancy in the parish president’s office.”

tim whitmerEmbattled Jefferson Parish Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Tim Whitmer has resigned as of 4:30 Monday afternoon.

The FBI is investigating Whitmer and his family’s insurance business, Lagniappe Industries, and its relationship with parish vendors. Reportedly, Lagniappe is doing business with at least 6 companies that hold large contracts with the parish.

Whitmer had worked for the parish for nearly 30 years. His resignation will now delay his ability to receive his $172,000 per year pension by five years.

Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard says that the resignation surprised him.

Council-member at-large John Young told ABC26 News that the parish attorney is reviewing whether Whitmer must attend a hearing scheduled for Wednesday, but Young says the issue appears moot right now.