Fighting public corruption makes good business sense, says Letten

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 11, 2011

By David Vitrano


LAPLACE – The St. John Parish Business Association had a bit of a local celebrity speak at its monthly meeting Wednesday evening at Belle Terre Country Club.

Jim Letten, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana, is probably best known in St. John the Baptist Parish as the man who spearheaded the investigation that resulted in the conviction of former St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard in September 2009. Naturally, a large portion of his talk concerned his office’s efforts to stop public corruption.

“We have seen the devastating negative perception corruption has had on the state,” said Letten.

He noted that even before Hurricane Katrina New Orleans had been rapidly losing population.

He said this was partly attributable to a reluctance of businesses to locate there because of the perception of Louisiana as a state rife with corruption.

“The reality has changed,” he said. “The question is whether the perception has changed.”

Letten said the top priorities of his office are always national security and violent crime but added corruption will always have to be one of its main focuses.

“Corruption is not going to go away,” he said.

He said especially in cases involving public corruption civilian tips play a major role, partly because these are crimes that cannot be committed by a single individual.

“It takes two to tango in these illicit schemes,” he said. “We can’t make the cases without the cooperation, without the information, without the lack of tolerance that you all provide.”

He lauded the citizens of St. John the Baptist Parish for their recent vigilance regarding public corruption.

“It means you are demanding better,” he said.

Letten also explained to the crowd the workings of a grand jury on both the state and federal levels and discussed how his office protects the safety of civilian informants.

The St. John Business Association holds monthly meetings featuring guest speakers. The next meeting will be held July 13 at a location yet to be determined.

The association will also be taking part in a tri-parish networking event July 23 at Belle Terre Country Club.