St. John citizens meet to discuss officials’ ethics

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 28, 2011

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – About 50 St. John the Baptist Parish residents gathered at Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse Wednesday evening in response to a call from fellow citizen John Millet to ban together to ensure local elected officials follow a code of ethics rather than a code of personal gain.

It was the first large-scale meeting of the St. John Parish Citizens for Ethical Government, an organization spearheaded by Millet. Millet has been outspoken in his criticism of the ethical standards of local politicians lately, a stance that seemed to be solidified by the scandal that led to the resignation of former Parish President Bill Hubbard.

Millet even recently brought ethics charges against members of the St. John Parish Council.

“It wasn’t an easy decision,” said Millet. “We all know this parish.”

Millet said he knew bringing such charges could be detrimental to him both professionally and socially, but said he had to stand up for the parish that is his home.

“What I’m trying to do is change the way the parish has done business for the past 40 years,” he said.

“My family’s been here a long time. I’m not going anywhere,” he added.

Prior to this meeting, Millet attended Presidential Advisory Committee meetings set up by the administration of Parish President Natalie Robottom in the weeks after she was elected.

He said he liked much of what he heard there but was somewhat disturbed by inclination of some of those involved to “stay out of the weeds.”

“If we don’t get in there and pull the weeds, we’re always going to have weeds in our garden,” said Millet.

So Millet began meeting with a small group of citizens, and together they drafted “A Public Servant’s Code of Ethical Conduct.” The document was included in the packet handed out to all attendees.

Millet enlisted Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche to speak at the inaugural meeting.

Goyeneche drove home many of the points hinted at by Millet and likened the problems faced by St. John Parish to those of neighboring parishes. He also made it clear many of the violations brought to light recently have come about because of tips from ordinary citizens.

“I believe there has been a quantum shift, particularly post-Katrina,” said Goyeneche. “I believe the public has finally reached the saturation point.”

He also pointed out how seemingly localized wrongdoing can affect a much wider swath.

He told the story of impeached Judge Thomas Porteous, who told a group of U.S. senators that accepting bribes and favors was just the way things were done in Louisiana and suggested those words could have affected federal funding to the state.

“That judicial corruption in Gretna in 1994 affects all of us,” he said.

Goyeneche summed up his message by saying, “If we’re going to rebuild our community, it’s not going to be in the image of what it was but in the image of what it should be.”

Following Goyeneche’s talk, Millet encouraged everyone present to spread the word about the group. As one of the attendees pointed out, the only way to make one’s voice heard in the government is through the power of numbers.

For more information on St. John Citizens for Ethical Government, visit or call 985-248-9117.