Integrity and faith

This week’s issue includes two stories related in how they were publicly released but dissimilar in many other respects, although both have to do with Lafourche Parish.

It is no secret to anyone at this point that District Attorney Camille Morvant II announced five grand jury indictments last week. Lockport Chief of Police Warren A. Vedros, Sr. was indicted on eight separate felony offenses. He is charged with one count of felony theft, three counts of malfeasance in office, three counts of filing false public records and one count of forgery. That same investigation also resulted in the indictment of Robert M. Barker, Jr. of Lockport, who faces two counts of forgery and one count of filing false public records. His bond has been set at $30,000, or $10,000 on each count.

In connection with a totally a separate investigation, former Lafourche Parish Council member Michael F. Delatte, Sr. and his former tenant Kemitra Banks were each indicted on one count felony theft relating to Section 8 housing assistance obtained through the Lafourche Parish Housing Authority.

In an even more unrelated matter, a man named Troy Hunt was indicted on one count of simple rape and a count of sexual battery of a victim under the age of thirteen. The victims were the daughters of the defendant’s girlfriend, and the crimes are alleged to have occurred over a period of time between 2009 and 2015. His arraignment is set for Thursday, June 1. Hunt is currently incarcerated in the Lafourche Parish Detention Center.

While the latter case is a sad state of affairs, certainly, our focus has been on the two former developments.

Over the past 16 years, Chief Vedros has appeared to be a dedicated public servant. All reports that we have ever encountered from people living within his jurisdiction are that the Lockport Police Department has served them well. Robert Barker is a valued member of the Lafourche Parish business community. The auto dealership he is associated with, Lafourche Ford and Lincoln, gets consistently exceptional grades from consumers.

Of Ms. Banks we know nothing, other than that some people in Choctaw and Kraemer have told our reporters that while in the employ of Mr. Delatte at his small, quaint store in Choctaw, she has been polite and pleasant. Mike Delatte served honorably on the Lafourche Parish Council. He was a councilman who took problems into his own hands, quite literally. Some years ago, he was observed using his own boat to clear a Bayou Beouf choked by hydrilla weeds, refusing to wait for tidal influences to do the job, knowing that other peoples’ vessels were endangered by the growth. Every report that we have ever received indicates dedication and a belief by his constituents that they were well-represented.

It was therefore with no pleasure that our staff took on the task of writing about these cases.

In their stories, a combination of approaches was used to balance out the accusations, to humanize to what degree they could individuals who – with the exception of Mr. Barker – would not return their calls and therefore made the job of balance that much more difficult.

Prosecution of public officials is not something that happens often in our communities. Accusations of all kinds of corruption we hear with frequency, but which in most cases do not bear up to proper scrutiny.

Mr. Morvant is a seasoned prosecutor with a reputation for fairness. He is not a publicity hound. If he has had enough question about a case’s validity to present in front of a grand jury, and the grand jury has seen fit to indict, we must accept that enough evidence exists for suspicions to be well-founded. That doesn’t mean, however, that anyone is guilty of anything.

We have no question about the potential that crimes have been committed. Whether indeed this is truly the case remains to be seen. But we have faith in Mr. Morvant’s integrity, and in the way our system of justice operates.

We agree with all those who say judgement must be withheld until all the facts are in. We wish Mr. Morvant Godspeed in his search for truth, and those accused the fortitude to weather the wait. •