By: Wade Petite (like everything else not otherwise designated in Pelican Post)
These are strange times in which we live, when a guy who has betrayed his oath of office as frequently as Murphy Painter critiques somebody else’s belief system. Since Painter took up the gauntlet, erroneously describing your writer as an atheist, to fend off criticism by Pelican Post while slandering his electoral opponent, we are compelled to reply. I have never represented, to anyone, that I speak for Clint Cointment.
Are we friends? I am honored to say we are. Do we talk? Every Thursday at a standing lunch engagement to which anyone is invited, and as frequently as any friends would. Do we talk about local government? Unless it’s LSU football season, that’s just about all I talk of to anybody.
Have we ever discussed Murphy Painter? The first time was 2017 when Painter was angling for a parish government job, believing Cointment would be Ascension’s next parish president.
Could I act as go-between for Painter and Cointment? I could, and have. Cointment trusts me, and does not trust Painter.
Did Cointment ever ask me to relay an offer of any kind to Painter? Categorically, no.
Was Cointment leery of dealing with Painter? He’d have been a fool not to be, and Clint Cointment is nobody’s fool. Here’s why.
Way back in 2002 Painter was still smarting from his electoral losses (he still is) to former sheriffs Jeff Wiley in 1995, and Harold Tridico in 1991. The next quadrennial sheriff’s election was scheduled for October 2003 and Painter wanted desperately to be Ascension’s sheriff. So desperately, in fact, that he concocted a scheme to blackmail Wiley out of the race so that he could ascend to the lofty position without opposition.
At the time Wiley was defending a civil suit brought by two deputies, one of whom he’d fired and the other demoted. A number of sordid allegations against Sheriff Wiley had surfaced surrounding those adverse employment actions, said allegations churning the rumor mill at the instigation of the plaintiffs’ attorney, Aidan Reynolds of Baton Rouge. As it happened, your writer had attended law school with Reynolds’ brother, and I represented the individual rumored to be the key witness against Wiley.
I refused Reynolds’ request for a meeting with my client who, to be perfectly clear, never said an incriminating word against Sheriff Jeff Wiley. Not in my presence, anyway. It was still a very stressful ordeal, even for peripheral figures like your writer. My client having been imprisoned out of state, things settled down.
That’s when, out of the blue, I received a call from Murphy Painter, now heading up Alcohol and Tobacco Control, inviting me to lunch at TJ Ribs on Acadian Thruway in Baton Rouge. Coincidentally, so it seemed, I had just exited the Baton Rouge governmental building downtown, court having recessed for lunch. Painter knew all about my day’s plan, not surprising in retrospect given his authority over ATC agents and databases to stalk whomever he chose.
For 45 minutes I listened to Painter whine about two elections being stolen from him, dirty tricks and devious deeds done to usurp his rightful place atop APSO’s throne. I had heard it all before, ad nauseum. My attention span lasted exactly as long as a plate of delectable ribs…and I had to get back to the courthouse (something else Painter knew without my telling him). I assumed he had not invited me to commiserate about decade-old election returns so, could he get to the point?
Painter wanted me to arrange a meeting with my imprisoned client in the hope of getting all the alleged dirty details about Sheriff Wiley. I offered to consider voting for him if he opted to challenge Wiley, and nothing else. Painter wanted to be the man, but knew he couldn’t beat the man. He didn’t like it, and he couldn’t learn to love it…Whew!
That is the story I related to Clint Cointment in July 2017 when Murphy Painter asked me to arrange a meeting because he was “64 years old and needed to get something out of the next election cycle.” I had met with Painter over successive days under the pretext of a potential story about his ongoing suit against the State of Louisiana. Painter decided to “come clean” in my driveway, after bringing me home the last day.
He’d been “approached by a group of Gonzales businessmen to run against Cointment.” Painter also said he was considering a run against Sherman Jackson for Gonzales Chief of Police in 2020. I passed along his message to Cointment who, not having made a decision to seek the parish presidency in 2019, wondered if meeting Painter was a wise thing to do.
My advice? After relating the story above, steer clear of Murphy Painter whose ruthlessness is exceeded only by his deviousness. To my knowledge, that meeting never came off, but I did put Painter in touch with Daniel Blank’s attorneys who had filed for a Writ of Habeas Corpus and were in the market for a private investigator familiar with all the players. Whether that turned into a paying gig…I did not follow up.
Painter had also reached out for my assistance two years earlier. Pelican Post published a story about Painter’s legal travails in July 2015, after another lengthy lunch meeting…
And, yes, he paid since it was Painter asking the favor of me.
Fast forward to 2018 and rumors began to surface of his candidacy. That’s when I saw, for the very first time, Murphy Painter at a parish governmental event, a CPEX Open House which led to adoption of the new Master Land Use Plan on May 29, 2019.
It was there, at Gonzales Civic Center, that we made arrangements to have lunch. A subsequent phone call firmed up the details. It is my practice to sell advertising and access to Pelican Post to any and every candidate possible.
Arriving early, I received a text from Painter indicating he was close, “on the Sunshine Bridge.” It was a crystal clear signal that he had met with Donaldsonville power-brokers about his candidacy. Which meant that there was no agreement to be had because those power-brokers, and the current parish president they own, want to drive me out of business too.
They had already tried it, unsuccessfully.
There was no point in pitching Murphy Painter because his paymasters would never allow him to do business with Pelican Post. So why ruin an otherwise enjoyable meal (I had the blackened chicken, I think he had red beans and rice)? Without a topic of conversation I listened to Painter’s timeworn rant about Bobby Jindal, Tom Benson, Steven Waguespack, Jeff Wiley and the rest. This time he added a tale of unfair practices by Budweiser with regard to a Bayou Superfest, all those other times his rant focused on an event at Champions Square at the New Orleans Superdome.
If you’ve spent a consecutive 30 minutes with Painter you have heard it all, too.
As the meal concluded I walked with Painter to the parking lot to indulge my lone remaining active addiction…tobacco. As it happened, I had another meeting at the same restaurant with a candidate for parish council that afternoon. Painter began backing out of his parking spot before slamming on the brakes, exiting the driver’s side to inform me that he had come from a meeting in Donaldsonville.
“Yeah. I know. Get your money up front,” was my unsolicited advice.
In 2017 Painter sought a job with Cointment, which went nowhere, but I was certain “this was a better offer, anyway.” Not that it mattered, but Painter justified his candidacy as “an opportunity for me” repeatedly, at one point declaring his loyalty to “whoever can help me settle my lawsuit and put half-a-million dollars in my pocket.” I posited that Cointment’s side did not have that “kind of juice” and “would not waste it” on Painter anyway (strictly my assessment based on Cointment’s character).
The raucous conversation that ensued lasted about ten minutes. Obviously, I opined, Painter’s past was going to be made an issue, no matter his opponent, though it concerned me little.
The main question I posed to him, most important to me as a voter and purveyor of Pelican Post:
“Are you going to fire “Moose” Pearce?”
It was my contention then, bolstered by every event since, that Murphy Painter is nothing more than an extension of Kenny Matassa’s administration, the most corrupt in parish history. I specifically mentioned Pearce because he is emblematic of its worst features; political patronage, wasteful spending, coercion of employees for electoral support, retaliation against disobedient employees…the list goes on. Pelican Post has hammered that theme, accurately we believe, since Matassa’s inauguration, January 4, 2016.
Three months later and Painter reached out to Clint Cointment. Leery of Painter, for obvious reasons, Cointment asked me to find out what, exactly, Painter wanted to discuss. It was not the first time I had acted as a go-between. My text to Painter, in blue…
was met with a cryptic reply. Painter is a plotter and a schemer, Cointment is as straight-up honest as anyone I’ve ever met. Cointment was leery because he is unschooled in the ways of intrigue. That’s where it ended.
As to Painter’s claims that your writer is “a whore” and for sale to the highest bidder…if Painter had done his research he would have learned that the highest bidder was…
To dispense with a minor matter (if you care at all), I consider myself an agnostic which means, very simply, that I don’t know and I freely admit that “I don’t know.” Neither does Murphy Painter, notwithstanding his itinerant barroom preaching. In the words of Thomas Paine, the author of American Revolution:
“I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.”
And, like Murphy Painter, I have never been convicted of a felony (due to the vagaries of our system of criminal justice). To those of you hearing otherwise, consider the source. And I made a choice not to resume practicing law…