Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Fortunato Funneled Over $56k From Campaign To Son's Company

If it seems like almost every day there is a new ethical issue with JP Sheriff Candidate Johnny Fortunato, you would be correct.
 As if handing out free food on Public School property; being the “Keynote Speaker” at a Senior Party paid for with tax dollars courtesy of JP District 3 Councilman Mark Spears; hiring Greg Buisson, a man who routinely advises his clients to skirt State Ethics rules; Fortunato’s support for Jefferson Parish’s Sexual Predator-in-Chief Mike Yenni, or having a wife who is a political appointee of Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn – despite not living in Kenner weren't enough, now comes the revelation that Fortunato has funneled over $56,000 from his campaign account to a Texas-based business owned by Fortunato’s son.
And, while none of these things is technically illegal, ALL raise questions about the judgement and ethics of candidate, particularly a candidate that wants to become Jefferson Parish’s Top Lawman.
Normally, I never post about a candidate’s family. However, when that candidate brings his family into the campaign, all bets are off.
According to the Louisiana Ethics Administration reports, through 2/24 Fortunato has spent over $56,000 with Wrap Stars, a Texas company owned by his son, Johnny Fortunato Jr.
The $56,000 represents about 35% of the total amount of campaign contributions that the Fortunato Campaign has received.
Allegedly, the $56,000 was for “Signs” and “Magnets”.
Or, it could be a Father trying to help his Son.
Johnny Fortunato Jr. is a former JPSO Deputy and was terminated by the JPSO. After running afoul of the law here, Fortunato Jr. moved to Texas and started his business.
Again, I don’t like writing about candidate’s families but, since Fortunato is running for JP Sheriff and his son was terminated from the JPSO, I think that is a valid point to make.
The point is, there are dozens of local companies that could have provided the Fortunato campaign with “Signs” and “Magnets” but instead of using one of them, Fortunato CHOSE to use his son’s out-of-state company.
Since the JP Sheriff is also responsible for the collection of taxes in the Parish, why wouldn't Fortunato BUY LOCAL and contribute to the local economy and our tax base?
Just as Fortunato CHOSE to announce on WDSU that Mike Yenni shouldn’t have resigned after Yenni’s sexting scandal was revealed and that Fortunato, as Sheriff of Jefferson Parish, would support Yenni’s re-election bid in 2019, Fortunato CHOSE to funnel money to his son's Texas company instead of BUYING LOCAL.
As I’ve said, spending money with your son’s business and using campaign dollars (other people’s money) isn’t illegal.
But it sure raises a lot of unnecessary questions.  

Monday, March 12, 2018

Fortunato: As Sheriff I Would Support Yenni’s Re-Election

Since he entered the JP Sheriff’s race, I have discussed Johnny Fortunato’s choice of Greg Buisson as his Campaign Manager.
Fortunato certainly has the right to choose anyone as his Campaign Manager and, given his track record at least, Buisson has certainly run many winning campaigns.
Buisson has also worked with many of Metro NOLA’s most unscrupulous and criminal elected officials including former JP President Aaron Broussard, ex-St. Tammany Coroner Peter Galvin and many others.
Along the way, Buisson has used his influence with the politicians that he has helped get elected to enrich himself and extend his greedy tentacles into several organizations that receive tax funding funneled to them (and authorized) by those same Buisson clients. In my mind, this is a classic example of a conflict of interest but Buisson’s clients keep finding ways to shovel more money his way while our State Ethics Board looks the other way.
Current Orleans Parish Councilman-At-Large and former State Rep. Helena Moreno even granted Buisson's daughter a scholarship to Tulane, despite the fact the Buisson didn't live in her district and other students may have been more deserving.
Unfortunately, I can’t turn a blind eye.
As Buisson is already the longtime Campaign Manager of Jefferson Parish’s Sexual Predator-in-Chief Mike Yenni, 4 Jefferson Parish Councilmen, the Mayor of Kenner Ben Zahn and several Kenner City Councilmen, along with Buisson’s relationships with groups that receive Parish and Kenner funding like the Jefferson Convention & Visitor’s Bureau and numerous other groups, I questioned whether it wise to also let Buisson have access to the vast resources of the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.
I also speculated about what type of relationship a Sheriff Fortunato would have with a disgraced Parish President like Mike Yenni.
Now, in Fortunato’s own words, we can put that speculation to rest.
 During last night’s WDSU Hot Seat, Travers Mackel asked Fortunato and Interim Sheriff Joe Lopinto two interesting questions regarding Yenni and both candidates gave opposite responses.
“Q: Should Mike Yenni have resigned after his scandal with a teen male about a year and half ago?
Fortunato: NO
Lopinto: Yes
Q: If elected Sheriff, would you support Mike Yenni in the 2019 election cycle for re-election?
Lopinto: No
Fortunato: Yes (looks to the side, possibly seeking Buisson’s approval)” 

In the recent Jefferson Parish District 4 Council race between Dominick Impastato and State Senator Danny Martiny, Impastato (also represented by Buisson) was able to deceive the voters into believing that he was not supported by Yenni and did not and would not support and enable Yenni.
As we found out after he was elected to the JP Council , Impastato has always sided with whatever Mike Yenni wants just as he did when Dominick sat on the Kenner City Council.
I have already chronicled Impastato’s long ties with Yenni. Impastato owes his political career to Mike Yenni and Team Buisson.
Unfortunately for Fortunato, his own words won’t allow him to deceive the public as Impastato did.
In his opening statement, Lopinto said, “I’m Sheriff Joe Lopinto. I want to let the public know who I am.”
Last night we also learned who Johnny Fortunato is – and who his friends are.

Sorry Johnny. We already have too many Yenni-enablers like Impastato in Parish Government and running the City of Kenner.
We don’t need a Sheriff that enables and supports a Sexual Predator too.

Friday, March 9, 2018

JP Councilman Spears Used Tax Dollars To Promote Sheriff Candidate Fortunato

As if passing out free food at a Public School to buy votes wasn’t brazen enough, now Jefferson Parish Sheriff candidate Johnny Fortunato is using tax dollars courtesy of JP District 3 Councilman Mark Spears to buy the votes and support of Senior Citizens.
Yesterday (3/8), Spears held a party for Senior Citizens at the Alario Center on the West Bank. Spears has held “Senior Parties” in the past although usually at Christmas. These parties feature Spears passing out gift cards and presents provided by area businesses as door prizes to attendees.
It’s just like the old scam of providing hot dogs and drinks (along with a “Sample Ballot”) as you drive voters to the polls and “casually” mentioning that the hot dogs came from a politician.
Many businesses have complained about the “Annual Spears Shakedown” and the fact that many gift cards “just happen” to end up in the pockets of Spears’ family and friends. Of course, no business owner will go on the record to confirm these allegations for fear of retaliation from Spears or JP Government.
Now Spears has taken his Senior Parties to a whole new political level by featuring  Fortunato as the “Keynote Speaker” at yesterday’s event.
The problem is Spears pays for these parties not from his own pocket or his campaign account. This party (which essentially was a Fortunato Campaign Rally with gift cards and other door prizes) was paid for by YOU – the taxpayers of Jefferson Parish.
Two resolutions authored and authorized by Spears appeared on the Council Addendum Agenda at the February 21st meeting and call for the payment of a total of $13,774 to Messina’s Catering to provide the food for the party/campaign rally.
That’s $13,774 of YOUR TAX DOLLARS.
It’s not the first time that Spears, who has ties to Fortunato’s Campaign Manager Greg Buisson, has used YOUR TAX DOLLARS to promote Fortunato’s candidacy.
In December, Spears allocated $50,000 from his District Account (again – YOUR TAX DOLLARS) to a Christmas Parade promoted by the New Orleans-based NOMTOC Carnival Krewe. The parade was held December 9th in Marrero. Fortunato, along with his wife, former TV talking head and current City of Kenner Deputy CAO Kriss Fairbairn Fortunato, rode in the parade passing out Christmas presents like a modern day Santa Clause.
I wonder how many businesses were involved in the shakedown so Fortunato could hand out toys on a parade route.
Kriss Fortunato is a political appointee of Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn. Zahn is also a client of Buisson, Buisson's clients also include Jefferson Parish’s Sexual Predator-in-Chief Mike Yenni, and several JP and Kenner Councilmen.
Look, if you want to hold a “Senior Party” or a Parade or any other event that is politically related, use your own money or even your campaign money and report it on your campaign finance report.  Isn’t that why we have a State Ethics Board?
But, don’t use Taxpayer Dollars to further your political career, help other candidates or as a conduit  to funnel money to a Campaign Manager (Yes, Greg Buisson, I’m talking about you).
Because, if you do, you know I’m going to have to write about it.
And I know you don't want that..

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Zahn Playing Politics With Kenner Hispanics (Again)

Just a few months after Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn pulled the rug (and the funding) out from under the feet of Kenner’s Hispanic Community by reallocating money that was pledged to rebuild the Hispanic Resource Center, Zahn is back to his old tricks using Kenner’s Hispanic Community as a pawn in his political game.
Since he can’t use the Hispanic Resource Center as a tool, this time Zahn is using a festival.
At issue is the Kenner Hispanic Summer Fest.
For the past 7 years, the Kenner Hispanic Summer Fest has occurred during the Summer (makes sense, right?). Last year, it was June 10th and 11th.
So, this year, you would logically think that the 8th Annual Kenner Hispanic Summer Fest would occur during June, July or August, right?
This year, for some unexplained reason (which we will attempt to decipher in a minute), the Kenner Hispanic Summer Fest has changed its name to the Kenner Hispanic Fest and occurs…wait for it…this weekend – in March.
Why would you change a successful 7 year festival that was a Summer highlight and even included the word “Summer” in its name until now?
The answer dear readers is simple:
The 1st Kenner Hispanic Fest “just happens” to be held this Saturday, March 10th and 11th. Curiously, Saturday is the first day of early voting for the March 24th primary in which Zahn and other fellow members of the Buisson Machine, including Kenner Councilman-At-Large candidate Kristi McKinney and JP Sheriff candidate Johnny Fortunato are on the ballot along with current Kenner District 4 Councilman Lenny “Mumbles” Cline (who is in a heated battle with George Branigan).
While it is the 1st “Kenner Hispanic Fest”, the Zahn Administration led by Cultural Diversity Director Rafael Saddy (who, I'm told, just happens to be one of the promoters of the Fest) is trying to pull the wool over Kenner Hispanic’s eyes again by promoting it as the “8th Annual Kenner Hispanic Fest”.
The problem is – it isn’t the “8th Annual Kenner Hispanic Fest” since the first 7 were called “Kenner Hispanic Summer Fest”.
So, why the games and the date and name changes?
Like I said, it’s purely political.
The 1st “Kenner Hispanic Fest” will give Zahn and his fellow Buisson Minions another opportunity to get in front of a large crowd, press the flesh and try to get some votes. Of course, other candidates not affiliated with Buisson (or endorsed by Zahn as McKinney, Fortunato and Cline are) will be told that “No Politics Are Allowed” at the Fest.
But, the same rules won’t apply to the Buisson Team.
I’m certain that Zahn will be up on the stage and probably introduce McKinney and Fortunato, at least. If he’s smart, he won’t introduce Cline (and he certainly won’t hand Cline the microphone and ask him to say a few words. A few words from Lenny could take all day).
Even if current Kenner Councilman-At-Large Maria DeFrancesch (McKinney’s opponent) attends, I seriously doubt that she will be invited on stage and introduced to the crowd. After all, DeFrancesch along with outgoing District 3 Councilman Keith Reynaud were the only members of the Kenner City Council who raised objections to Zahn pulling the HRC funding.
Zahn certainly wouldn’t want to promote DeFrancesch to a crowd of Hispanics when she was against Zahn’s reallocation of the HRC funding. In fact, DeFrancesch stood up for the Kenner Hispanic Community more than Zahn’s hand-picked “Cultural Diversity Coordinator” Saddy or the politically-appointed HRC Director.
In addition, there is little doubt that Zahn/McKinney/Fortunato signs and volunteers wearing campaign t-shirts will be strategically milling through the crowd, along with vehicles with more campaign signs parked near the entrance and in the Laketown parking lots.
I bet there won’t be any t-shirt wearing DeFrancesch volunteers in the crowd.
No Branigan or Sheriff Joe Lopinto volunteers either and surely no volunteers for Zahn’s opponents Dona Reynaud (the wife of the other Councilman who stood up for the HRC) and Al Morella.
So, instead of celebrating Kenner’s Hispanic community, the 1st Kenner Hispanic Fest is just another political stunt that the Buisson Team of Zahn, McKinney, Fortunato and Cline can use to their advantage.
But, when they use free food as a means to garner votes, are you really surprised that Mayor Zahn and the Buisson Minions would use an event with a few thousand potential voters for their own selfish means?
For those wondering, that was a rhetorical question.
I do have a couple of unanswered questions though:
1). Is Kenner’s biggest sellout, I mean, Cultural Diversity Coordinator Saddy, who thought so much of Kenner Hispanic Community that he didn’t say a word when Zahn pulled the HRC funding (and its future), making any side money from his “promotion” of the Fest in addition to his City of Kenner paycheck? This is a major question since the City of Kenner is one of the primary sponsors of the event. 
2). Is the Campaign Manager for Zahn, McKinney, Fortunato and Cline, Greg Buisson, pocketing any cash from the Fest?
If you go this weekend, I hope everyone enjoys the 1st Kenner Hispanic Fest. But, don’t look for there to be a 2nd Annual Fest, at least not in March 2019. No, my guess is that in June 2019 we will be celebrating the 10th Annual Kenner Summer Hispanic Fest.
Just do me a favor: please make sure you loudly boo any politicians on stage.
Except Maria DeFrancesch, that is, assuming Zahn would actually allow her on stage.
Councilwoman DeFrancesch deserves your applause - and your vote.    

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Politics Of Free Food

In the past few months, Kenner has had several distributions of free food coordinated by the transportation/logistics company CRC. The company collects food from grocers that is expired or close to its sell by/use by date and distributes that to Food Banks and through other avenues. 
There were two recent free food distributions at Divine Mercy Church in Kenner. I didn’t attend either because, thankfully, I don’t miss many meals and I’m fortunate enough to not need free food. In addition I’m told, the second one was just free Sweet Potato Pies (obviously WalMart vastly overestimated Kenner’s Sweet Potato Pie cravings). 
Now, before you get defensive and the haters out there start calling me bitter because I didn’t get any free pie, I appreciate CRC making the effort to distribute food to the needy (even if many in the lines at Divine Mercy were not truly needy – if you’re driving a 2017 Cadillac Escalade how much do you really need some free grub?) or, that for those not aware, Divine Mercy Church is in North Kenner in one of Kenner's most affluent neighborhoods. 
I didn’t even complain or post that there were many elected officials and candidates participating in handing out the food (and, in turn, making themselves look good to potential voters – sorry if that’s the cynic in me coming out).
However, there was another food distribution on February 24th that I do have some major issues with.
Again, I’m not going to criticize CRC as I don’t know if they were a part of the duplicity of some elected officials and candidates or if they were just “useful idiots” in the process.
I’d like to believe in the altruism of Ronnie Mains and CRC.
However, this food distribution was different.
Instead of food being made available to anyone, or CRC actually using a list of the truly needy from Kenner’s Food Bank (we are the only city in the state by the way that has its own food bank) or a list of residents that rely on Meals on Wheels, this food distribution was limited to families that send their children to Kenner Discovery School.
Not just "needy" KDHSA families – any family regardless of income.
And, to make matters worse, the food distribution occurred on public school property (KDHSA is a Public Charter School) and included Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn and two candidates for office that Zahn is endorsing, Kenner Council-At-Large candidate Kristi McKinney and JP Sheriff candidate Johnny Fortunato (whose wife just happens to work as a political appointee of Zahn’s despite the fact that she is not a Kenner resident. I know, semantically she is not a “Director” and not covered by the City Charter but, that is semantics and Ben Zahn clearly knows the spirit and intent of the Charter).
According to Zahn, he was invited to participate by Ronnie Mains of CRC.
Fine. He’s the Mayor of Kenner, even if you and I question his true motives and think he should have known better. But why were McKinney, Fortunato and their t-shirt wearing volunteers also there?
In an article on Nola.com written by Michelle Hunter, Fortunato’s campaign manager, the infamous Greg Buisson (who has never met an ethics rule that he didn’t try to skirt) says that Fortunato was also invited by Mains (who happens to be a Fortunato supporter himself and gave Fortunato the max contribution available, $2,500 this election cycle. By the way, Mains through CRC and various companies has also contributed $14,000 through the years to JP's Sexual Predator-in-Chief Mike Yenni and another $3,500 to the aforementioned Ben Zahn).
In the article, Fortunato himself says that his volunteers were canvassing a nearby Kenner neighborhood and stopped by at Mains’ request.
“We look at it as we were only there, just like Kiwanis and just like anyone else who was there to volunteer time to serve a purpose for the needy,” Fortunato said.
Ok…so how do you explain the vehicles with Fortunato signs and advertising on them prominently placed on school grounds and the fact that you and your volunteers also “just happened” to participate in another CRC food distribution the next day in Marrero?
I guess you were just canvassing there too, right?
In any event, Fortunato, McKinney and Zahn should not be using free food to help their campaigns. Even if Zahn is the Mayor of Kenner and was “invited” by Mains, he knows better and he certainly knows better than to participate in a food distribution at a public school that wasn’t sanctioned by the JP School Board or even KDHSA’s Principal.
Buisson, who is the campaign manager for all three (Zahn, McKinney and Fortunato) also knows better. Unfortunately, he doesn’t care and this entire incident would have been swept under the rug if a complaint were not filed and the Jefferson Parish Public School System notified.
And, regardless of your politics, that’s just wrong.
Do we, as citizens, really want a Mayor, a Councilman-At-Large or a Sheriff that pushes the ethical envelope until they are caught?
Do we, as citizens, really want a Mayor, a Councilman-At-Large or a Sheriff using food destined for the needy as a campaign tool?
Shouldn’t we, as citizens, expect more?
Hopefully, CRC will not include any candidates in future food distributions. As a private company, CRC can certainly give food to whomever they want but, as Mains himself said, “Some things should be above politics. Supporting our community by helping the needy should not be one of them.”
I agree 100% Mr. Mains. So why invite candidates and their volunteers and make the food distribution political? 
Now, I’m sure that KDHSA has many needy families although I’m also relatively certain that if Mr. Mains and CRC really believes they are “helping the needy”, future food distributions should be in Kenner’s poorer neighborhoods and available to all the “truly needy”. 
Restricting the food distribution to only KDHSA families, without regard to need (while certainly CRC’s right) contradicts Mr. Mains’ stated goal of “helping the needy”. What about families with children at other Kenner schools? Will they also get distributions of food (hopefully without the politicking)? 
What about families without children, the disabled, the elderly or those without transportation to get to a CRC free food distribution? Don't they also deserve help? 
It’s also ironic that in the article, CRC’s Chief Operating Officer Robert Gadola said, “We’re not in the political world; we’re in the business world.”
The irony isn’t just the fact that CRC “invited” politicians and their volunteers to assist them or even that a CRC truck had a Forunato ad on it or even that a company claiming to not be "in the political world" has contributed tens of thousands of dollars the campaigns of many elected officials and candidates.

No, the real irony is that Gadola himself was one of Kenner’s three nominees for a spot on the New Orleans Aviation Board that Zahn recently submitted to New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. 
Evidently, Gadola was suggested to Zahn by Jefferson Parish Councilman Dominick Impastato, also a Buisson client and a staunch supporter of McKinney. Oh, and Impastato is also a former Kenner City Councilman for District 5, in which Divine Mercy Church happens to be located. 

Did I mention that Impastato also has received thousands in campaign contributions from CRC?

Funny how people that claim to not be in the “political world” are nominated for powerful, politically-appointed boards.
I guess, after this post is published, that means there will be no free Sweet Potato Pie for me.
But, that's ok. You can have my share, Dominick.

Besides, your pie hole is way bigger than mine.

Just make sure you chew real good.

I wouldn't want you to choke on it. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

JP Pulls Plug On Kenner Senior Center Water

As thousands of JP East Bank residents struggle with low water pressure and are under the first boil water advisory in ages, the 300+ Senior Citizen residents of Kenner's Westminster Tower have no water at all.

Jefferson Parish's Water Department shut off all water to the Tower, citing low water pressure and water leaks in the system.

Kenner officials pointed blame squarely at Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni.

"Yenni knew and ok'd the shut down," a high-ranking Kenner official who asked to not be identified said.

The reason for the shutdown is not apparent as residents and businesses around the Tower have water, albeit at a low pressure.

Residents of the facility were told Thursday afternoon to expect to be without water for up to 3 days and advised that, if they have relatives nearby, to stay with them for the time being.

The City of Kenner is making arrangements to have water delivered to the Tower. The State is also sending a tanker truck of water as a backup for the Tower and for Kenner Fire Department use, if needed.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Brennan Dismissed From Theft Lawsuit

Former Interim Kenner Councilman-At-Large Brian Brennan has been dismissed from a lawsuit that alleged he and his former business partner bilked a Mississippi company of $500,000. 
Brennan was a named defendant in the lawsuit since he was the Vice President and Officer of a factoring company that was hired by the Mississippi company. 
Brennan was represented by current Jefferson Parish District 4 Councilman Dominick Impastato. Brennan has announced his intention to seek the Kenner District 5 Council seat vacated by Impastato and Impastato has endorsed Brennan. Impastato and Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn recently hosted a fundraiser for Brennan at the home of Henry Shane. 
Brennan and Impastato were members of then-Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni’s 2010 transition team and Brennan was appointed to the Kenner City Council to replace Keith Conley who resigned to accept a position in Yenni’s Jefferson Parish Administration in 2016.
Qualifying for the March election is this week. 
While Brennan has been dismissed, the case against Brennan’s former business partner will continue and is scheduled to be heard later this month.