Opinion: Lou Burnett – Political Legacy

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Political Legacy

The Deen Legacy

For more than five decades, the Deen name was a respected part of the political scene in Bossier Parish. But the Deen legacy may end up tarnished after all those years of public service.

It all began in 1960 when Jesse C. Deen was elected to the Bossier Parish Police Jury where he would serve for three terms or 12 years.
In 1972, Jesse Deen ran for and was elected the state representative for House District 9, succeeding Ford E. Stinson Sr., who retired. He would serve in that capacity for 16 years before retiring. He was succeeded by Billy Montgomery.

During that time in office, he became a political force, not only in Bossier Parish, but in the state Legislature as well where he served on the powerful Appropriations Committee and was one of the founders of the Rural Caucus. All totaled, Jesse Deen was part of the Bossier Parish power structure for 28 years. He enjoyed a sterling reputation and was a respected figure in the parish until he passed away on December 7, 2015 at the age of 93.

As Jesse Deen exited the political scene in 1988, his son Larry C. Deen stepped into the political arena. He resigned as a Bossier deputy sheriff in 1987 so he could challenge his former boss, Sheriff Vol Dooley, who was seeking a third term. Larry Deen’s popularity was immediate, thanks to the respected Deen name. He won the Bossier badge, getting 62% of the vote in the 1988 election. Dooley came in with 28.9%, and Bill Gray, the third candidate in the race, had 9.1%. It would be the beginning of a long reign as Bossier’s top law enforcement officer. He won a second term with 89% of the vote against Lillian Lewter and thereafter was unopposed in the elections of 1995, 1999, 2003, and 2007. He did not seek a seventh term in the 2011 election and retired.

Unfortunately for Larry Deen, a dark cloud looms over his 24 years of public service and threatens to tarnish the Deen legacy. A federal investigation led to a grand jury indictment of Larry Deen and two owners of Blakely Auto Plex for the alleged illegal purchase of a former Sheriff’s Office Suburban.

Deen and Clifton and Clinton Blakely were indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit federal program theft, one count of federal program theft, and one count of failure to file IRS Tax Form 8300. Federal prosecutors allege that before Deen left office the vehicle was traded in to Blakely Auto Plex and that the dealership undervalued the Suburban, which was later purchased by Deen’s wife after he left office.

All three defendants deny any wrongdoing. Each defendant, if convicted, faces five years in prison and one year of supervised release for the conspiracy count. The theft count carries a 10-year prison sentence and three years of supervised release. The Blakelys face five years in prison and one year of supervised release for the Form 8300 count. They also face a $250,000 fine for each count and forfeiture of the proceeds traceable to and property involved in the offenses.

Deen was scheduled to go on trial April 4 in U.S. District Court in Shreveport. However, the trial was reset for August 15 when federal prosecutors discovered 1,000 pages of documents that had not been turned over to defense attorneys.

Campbell calls out Vitter

Apparently Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter is done with Louisiana. One can hardly blame him, however, after voters defeated him in his run for governor in 2015. Democrat John Bel Edwards put an end to Vitter’s political career, scoring a landslide 56-44% victory – with the help, of course, of a few Republicans who took Vitter apart during the primary.

And his rejection by voters came after Vitter has served two terms or 12 years in the Senate. Rather than seek a third Senate term, which political analysts believed was a shoo-in, he decided to run for governor instead. Hindsight is 20/20, they say, and if Vitter could go back in time, he would likely run for re-election to the Senate where he was gaining seniority and power.
Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of national and local politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.