[StBernard] Sheriff candidates disagree on crime

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Tue Nov 13 21:17:33 EST 2007

Sheriff candidates disagree on crime
by The Times-Picayune
Monday November 12, 2007, 11:02 PM
By Paul Rioux
St. Bernard bureau

One thing Hurricane Katrina didn't destroy in St. Bernard Parish is
residents' long-cherished sense of security, said Sheriff Jack Stephens,
whose campaign for re-election in Saturday's runoff has focused on the
parish's low rate of violent crime.

Stephens has emphasized that while there have been more than 400 murders in
the New Orleans area since Katrina, there has been just one in St. Bernard.

"When you get out of your car, no one's going to stick a gun in your ear and
take your money," he said. "I intend to do everything in my power to keep it
that way because our reputation as a safe community is one of the few things
we have left."

Stephen's opponent, Larry Landry, acknowledged the parish remains a safe
place to live, but said the sheriff doesn't deserve credit.

"St. Bernard is safe because of the quality of the people who live here," he
said. "We're not killers; we're good citizens."

Landry, 54, a self-employed insurance agent, said Stephens has failed to
reverse a post-Katrina spike in narcotics trafficking. He also said the
Sheriff's Office is top-heavy and rife with cronyism.

"I would reorganize the department by getting rid of the deadheads at the
top and make sure everyone else serves the public in a courteous,
professional and respectful manner," he said.

Stephens said no changes are necessary at the Sheriff's Office, which he has
led since 1984.

"It would be like making Peyton Manning a tight end," he said. "We have a
reputation as one of the top law enforcement agencies in the state."

Stephens led the way in last month's four-candidate primary with 46 percent
of the vote, compared with 42 percent for Landry. The runoff is a rematch of
the 2003 race, when Stephens defeated Landry by 115 votes.

Landry has sounded many of the same themes as four years ago, criticizing
Stephens as an absentee sheriff and questioning whether he lives in the

"You need a sheriff who's going to be there, but he's absent on the job,"
Landry said. "You only see him once every four years when he's running for

Landry said the fact that Stephens' wife bought a house in Mandeville last
week raises new questions about where Stephens lives.

Stephens, who said he lives in the Fort Beauregard Marina Estates
subdivision at Shell Beach, said his wife is a real estate broker who bought
the house as an investment property.

Landry said a friend photographed a moving van outside the house after the
sale. "If you're just going to flip a house, you don't move your furniture
in," he said.

Stephens, who acknowledged that Landry's strong showing in 2003 caught him
by surprise, said he has launched a "much more aggressive campaign" this

He has reminded voters about Landry's suspension as a justice of peace in
2001 when the state Supreme Court ruled he had issued a civil default
judgment against a man who had not been properly served notice he was being

The sheriff has also noted the arrest of Landry's son, Maxwell Landry, who
was charged by federal authorities in April with conspiracy to distribute
more than 500 grams of cocaine.

Landry, who left the justice of the peace office in 2002, said that his
suspension was the result of a "procedural mistake" and that voters
understand he is no longer responsible for his 29-year-old son.

Landry said deputies have called him to complain that Stephens requires them
to work for his re-election or risk losing their jobs.

Stephens said he does not pressure employees to campaign on his behalf.

"The best thing a deputy can do for me politically is do his job because
that reflects well on me," he said at a candidates forum held by the
Alliance for Good Government. "If he wants to vote for someone else, that's
his business."

Stephens rebutted an ad Landry placed in a St. Bernard newspaper claiming
that the sheriff had bought off one of his opponents in the primary. The ad
said Henry Maitre, a retired captain with the Sheriff's Office, withdrew
from the race after Stephens gave him a $60,000 job as a major, paid his
campaign debt and gave him a vehicle.

"That is an absolute lie. Henry Maitre is not on my payroll, and Landry
knows it because he has a copy of the payroll," Stephens said. "It just goes
to show you how desperate this guy is."

Landry said he based the ad on "bragging" statements made by Maitre in
public places.

Maitre said he has not been hired by the Sheriff's Office, but he said
Stephens talked about the possibility of hiring him after the election.

"Nothing's official yet, and it has nothing to do with me supporting the
sheriff," Maitre said during an interview Monday. "I believe he's the best
man for the job."

The sheriff's job pays $98,000 a year.

Landry said he will likely end up spending $40,000 to $50,000 on the
campaign. Stephens' last campaign expenditure report said he had spent
$151,000 before the primary, leaving him with a war chest of more than
$100,000 for the runoff.

Paul Rioux can be reached at prioux at timespicayune.com or at (504) 826-3321.

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