Former Louisiana official Henry Mouton was on the take for years: An editorial
Published: Monday, June 06, 2011, 7:49 AM
Henry Mouton's attorney says that her client "just made some bad decisions,'' and that's how he ended up in federal court this week pleading guilty to conspiracy to accept bribes from a landfill owner.
But the former state Wildlife and Fisheries commissioner didn't just suffer from a few isolated lapses of judgement. He admitted to wrongdoing that covered many years. He began taking money from an unnamed co-conspirator in the mid 1990s -- $2,000 a month to provide inside political information and access to then-Gov. Mike Foster -- without registering as a lobbyist.
By 2003, when he was appointed to the Wildlife and Fisheries panel, his value increased. At that point, he received the first of 180 illegal payoffs, court records said, pocketing $463,970. After Hurricane Katrina, Mr. Mouton lobbied hard to close the Old Gentilly Landfill in eastern New Orleans and not to open Two Rivers Recycling Landfill in order to benefit his co-conspirator, prosecutors said.
He didn't stop taking bribes until January, prosecutors said, when his attorneys told him he was under investigation.
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten called the case against Mr. Mouton a "classic'' bribery case. He used his influence as a public official but never disclosed that he stood to gain.
While court records don't identify the landfill owner, other public documents suggest that it is Fred Heebe or his stepfather, Jim Ward, who own River Birch landfill in Waggaman. The offices of River Birch were raided last September. Neither man has been charged with any crime, and they are entitled to the presumption of innocence.
But prosecutors should continue to aggressively pursue the probe of government corruption during the administration of former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard.
"If the evidence leads us anywhere, we will go there,'' Mr. Letten said.
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