Louisiana Law Enforcement Theater

Act Two

Costume change on Stage Right... Lights... Action… CAMERA!

A theater critic might categorize the last 12 months in the Iberia Sheriff office as a Dark Comedy. But then that same critic would categorize the last 12 months in the Lafayette Sheriff office as a very Dark Dark Drama.

Underneath my outside face
There’s a face that none can see.
A little less smiley,
A little less sure,
But a whole lot more like me.

                                                                                               Shel Silverstein

Immediately after winning the election in Lafayette, Sheriff Mark Garber changed his costume, applied some make up and then turned into a completely different person. For months leading up to the election, the voters listened while Garber’s campaign exploited his domestic bliss which included numerous photo-ops with his happy family along with his campaign slogan:

I’ll protect your family like I protect my own!

                                                                                               Mark Garber for Sheriff 2015

Ten days after winning the election, Mark Garber’s wife, Rachel, filed for divorce. It was a huge slap in the face for citizens who thought they voted for a happy family guy. However, the divorce appeared amicable at fist while Rachel continued to maintain Mark Garber’s private law office. But appearances with Mark Garber, we already know, can be deceiving. He ended up firing his wife, Rachel, only a month after the election. Merry Christmas, Rachel.

Then in January, the Sheriff-elect made a complaint of criminal theft against his wife with the Lafayette police department. Mark Garber’s complaint claimed that Rachel was trying to sabotage his lucrative Workers Comp practice by stealing case files from his law firm. Next, an over-reaching warrant was issued for the emails inside Rachel’s personal email account along with all of the emails in the email account of her divorce attorney, Rick Mere. After the state court hearing I called Jeffery Speer who is the legal counsel for Rick and Rachel. He gave me the following statement regarding their ongoing fight to prevent the production of their email accounts.

In sum, at a time like this in our nation's history, nothing should be considered more sacred than a citizen's constitutional right to counsel and the rule of confidentiality that protects it.  A Sheriff's misuse of power to punish his ex-wife and her divorce lawyer, particularly in light of the fact that his candidacy was based on his claim to protect our families the way he protects his own, leaves most families in this jurisdiction open for something akin to spousal abuse with no place to turn for protection!

                                                     Jeffery F Speer

While investigating for this chapter, I spent two weeks contacting the Lafayette Sheriff Office. I talked to everyone who would talk to me and left numerous messages asking for the Sheriff to comment on this chapter. My intention was to get level-set on the sanctuary city status of Lafayette. But neither the Sheriff or his spokesman bothered to comment and I needed an angle for this chapter so…

I crossed the line and I called up Rachel, Sheriff Garber’s ex-wife. I was not prepared to learn the things Rachel shared with me but, that’s what you get when you cross the line.

My timing for the call couldn’t have been worse. Rachel was stranded on her porch because her home was surrounded by flood waters. Everything inside was destroyed after 10 inches of water filled the living room, bedrooms, kitchen… she had a port-a-let set up as a bathroom. She had just swam out to her coop to rescue her chickens and was sitting on her porch all alone when I called.

It was a short introduction, I explained I was writing a chapter on the anniversary of the Sheriff elections and since Mark wouldn’t call me back, I decided to call her. Then I asked her if she could comment on her ex-husband’s accusations of criminal theft. I figured if she didn’t hang up on me, maybe I could get a short quote that will work.

Instead, on the other side of the phone I found one of the most gracious and generous individuals ever to cross this Story of mine. I’m pretty sure Rachel is one of those people that everyone feels like they’ve known forever. She spoke very matter-of-factly and had a disarming honesty about her. At the same time, she never uttered a negative word, even while describing the destruction that surrounded her physically as well as emotionally. Divorce sucks most of the time, but Rachel feels that she’s been blessed with an experience to grow stronger and become the role model that her daughters need. Whenever Mark Garber’s name came into the discussion, Rachel had nothing but compassion for him.  “I don't love Mark anymore”, she said, “I think love means trust and honesty and I don't have that with him anymore.  I don't hate him though, I'm just sad and confused because this man I know today is nothing like the man I fell in love with. I just hope he trusts in God and can find happiness in his heart”.

We talked for hours while Rachel sat in her little wooden chair watching debris float past her porch. Of course I asked her about the warrant on her emails and she gave a very clear reply. “Oh, that’s all a misunderstanding,” said Rachel, “And the [Lafayette Police Department] will realize that when they read my emails… they will probably enjoy reading the inappropriate emails and more between Mark and multiple women. I’ve saved them all from the past three years. They’ll get to see a lot more of the Sheriff than they bargained for!”

OMG – Did she just say that? Suddenly, I’m kinda hoping that the Sheriff’s warrant for Rachel’s email isn’t quashed. Mark Garber should be more careful about what he asks for.

Like old girlfriends we discussed the impacts of infidelity on a marriage. Rachel explained in her brutal honesty that she felt like a complete idiot. Mark had been caught being unfaithful numerous times during their marriage but Rachel believed they could work through it and she thought the best way to work through it was to change herself. Of course, that tactic eventually wore down her self-esteem and made it even harder when Mark cheated again and again.

On the night of the election, Mark Garber, the happy family guy, was already shacked up with his girlfriend, Karen, away from his family. He had already told his wife, Rachel, that he and Karen would be “more than friends” after the election. But by springtime he was shacked up with Lori who he was previously involved with, however, Lori was still married, herself, until recently and Mark probably needed a babysitter at home, hence, Karen.  Today, Mark and Lori are both divorced and living together in Broussard. What a difference one year makes, eh?

After the flood waters receded I checked in on Rachel to ask if there were any new developments on the email warrant before I published this chapter. Her and her girls were still sleeping on twin mattresses laid out on the floor and they finally got a bath tub installed. She tells me it’s cozy and she and her girls have everything they need. Rachel has even built the girls a special place outside using cardboard so that they can borrow the neighbors Wi-Fi for some NetFlix and chill time. When I called, Lori was blowing up her phone with texts lecturing her about how she isn’t allowed to take the girls panties from the house in Broussard. Rachel just sighs and says “Doesn’t she understand that we’re living out of boxes right now? Everything had to be thrown out after the flood, even the panties.”

That’s when I asked her “When can you start the renovations and buy some beds?”

Well, you see, the flood insurance is part of the community property settlement in her divorce from the Sheriff but the property hasn’t been divided yet. The Sheriff signed the personal property form but has found every excuse not to sign the form that would give Rachel an advance on the insurance money. Therefore, no insurance check has been issued to replace basic necessities like beds and panties for the children. The renovations done so far have come out of Rachel's personal finances.

Thanks Sheriff Garber, if that’s how you protect your own family, I’d hate to see how you would protect mine.

“I feel like a complete idiot”, Rachel repeated. Years earlier when her and Mark were having troubles she asked her husband point blank, “Do you love me?”

Mark Garber answered his wife, ‘I’m indifferent. If you wanted to move in with a boyfriend, I wouldn’t mind.’ He told Rachel that she didn’t give him the affection and assurances he needed. He thought she should stop what she’s doing when he walked in the door and rush to give him a hug. She didn’t compliment him enough. She didn’t dote on him. Rachel thought they could work it out if she changed herself.

A Christian Support group specializing in divorce care became a large part of Rachel’s life and she realized, “I don’t have to eat sushi because Mark likes it, I don’t have to go hunting just because Mark likes it, I don’t have to change myself, I’m loved by God for who I am. I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” By the start of 2015, Mark promised her his catting around days were over and that he wanted to renew their marriage vows because, get this, he was considering running for Sheriff. Rachel tells me, “It was not a good time personally, he wanted a solid marriage before the campaign started. I told Mark this would be his last chance, I can’t do this, I won’t put up with you cheating again.”

A few short months later, during the middle of his sheriff campaign, Rachel found Mark cheating on their marriage again. She found on his phone over 500 flirty texts to Karen. After Mark was confronted with the texts - he told Rachel, ‘you don’t have a right to tell me who I can text to… If you leave it alone, I’ll get bored with it eventually’. And he did get bored, the minute Lori finalized her divorce.

I’ll protect your family like I protect my own!

“I feel like a complete idiot”, Rachel repeated again. “I knew I couldn’t do this anymore, I told him, I’m not going through this again. Words and actions are two different things with Mark.” After finding the texts, Rachel told Mark to drop out of the race because she wanted a divorce. But Mark told her that ‘nobody cares’, and ‘nobody will find out’ about his infidelity as long as they work together. He and Rachel then worked out the details and verbally agreed on a divorce settlement. For her part, Rachel only needed to agree that she would finish the campaign while acting out the part of a happy wife. “I asked Mark”, said Rachel, “Do you know how that makes me feel?  That I have to LIE time after time to defend you?  Do you even think about how this affects me?!”

Wait on the Lord

“In my case,” Rachel says forlornly, “I’d like to tell the public that I’m sorry because I feel I was part of that lie. But frankly, I was embarrassed and felt stupid that I trusted him again and again and again.” sincerely,  Ex Mrs Sheriff of Lafayette Parish, Rachel

---------------------------------Curtain Call ----------------------------------

The only reason that I really wanted to talk to Sheriff Garber was to hear the reasoning for his complete about face attitude regarding the Sanctuary City assignment of Lafayette.

One year ago, during the Lafayette Parish sheriff elections, the hot button topic was whether Lafayette was a “Sanctuary City” or not. By definition,  sanctuary cities refuse to cooperate with immigration officials by allowing suspected illegals out of jail after they’ve served their time instead of holding them past their sentences based solely on ‘suspicion’ of illegal status. Garber’s opponent in the election, Chad Leger, insisted that Lafayette was a sanctuary city and if he won the election he was going to change sheriff office policy and get Lafayette taken off the federal list.

The debate on this issue had a polarizing effect on the election. Chad Leger, backed by the Lafayette City Marshal, Brian Pope, staunchly and stone faced insisted that it was true. Lafayette was on the federal list of Sanctuary Cities because of Sheriff Office Policy and sloppy lawyers like… (sic) those guys who represent Workers Comp lawsuits for Honduran nationals. (sic).

On the other side of the campaign stump Mark Garber was emphatic that NO! NO! NO! Lafayette was NOT a sanctuary city! Garber explained that HE was a LAWYER, he is an expert at law and Lafayette is NOT a sanctuary city. NO! NO! NO!

Within six weeks after being sworn into office, Sheriff Mark Garber did an about face and reversed his position. Sheriff Garber told the whole world that Lafayette was no longer a Sanctuary City because he sent a stop and desist order to Immigration and Customs Enforcement DEMANDING that Lafayette be taken off the federal list. Garber announced that he had reversed Sheriff Office policy and his office would now hold suspected illegals for ICE, even after serving their sentences. (Unless they bond out, of course… it’s all about the money with these guys)

Ever since the Sheriff’s announcement the public has been under the impression that Lafayette has an official non-sanctuary status, but that’s only because the public doesn’t know the WHOLE story.

I knew Sheriff Garber wouldn’t have time to get into sanctuary city specifics even if he decided to answer the phone and so I called up the City Marshal, Brian Pope, thinking he might have time to chat. He and I had a very productive conversation, I learned a lot about ICE requirements and the strings attached. Marshal Pope told me I should ask the Attorney General about the Lafayette Sanctuary City status, he was certain that Jeff Landry would want to comment for my chapter.

And so – I contacted the Louisiana Attorney General Office - attn:  Jeff Landry

What I received back from the chief law enforcement officer in the State of Louisiana was a bit of a mystery. I was sent copies of two letters, both were addressed to Sheriff Garber and were signed by Jeff Landry. The first letter was dated August 19, 2016, immediately after Garber sent his cease and desist order to ICE.  That first letter was semi informal but had a very strong finish, these are the words the Attorney General used to finish his letter to Sheriff Garber:

As the chief legal officer of this state, and in light of that recent report, it is imperative that the policies of our local jurisdictions do not run afoul of federal immigration laws.

The action you have taken is a clear step in the right direction. I am willing to work with you and the Center of Immigration Studies to ensure that this policy is taken into account and that Lafayette is removed from the list of sanctuary cities.

Signed - Jeff Landry

The second letter is dated October 6, 2016, and has a much more formal and scolding tone to it. Inside that letter Louisiana’s chief legal officer explains the consequences for not complying with the federal law  8 U.S.C. § 1373, and no city is removed from the federal sanctuary city list until they comply with that law. AG Jeff Landry explains to Sheriff Garber that the purpose of the letter is to aid you and your officers or deputies in complying with 8 U.S.C. § 1373, thus ensuring that federal funding to your department is not jeopardized“.

The two page letter ends with these words: 

Enclosed is more information to help ensure your department is in compliance with the standards necessary to receive federal grants. If you have any questions, or need my assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

We all have our parts to play in protecting our communities. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Respectfully,

Signed ~ Jeff Landry

I don’t have a crystal ball but it sure seems obvious that Lafayette was still on the Sanctuary City List only a month ago, regardless of what Sheriff Garber wants you to believe. And it also appears that Garber’s policy change is really only about the money and not public safety. When I called Sheriff Garber, I wanted to ask him how much of his $250 million dollar budget was at stake. How much of your budget is represented by federal grant money? But as I mentioned, nobody from the Sheriff’s office would call me back so, I got on the phone again and this time I called Chief Chad Leger.

Chad Leger was in the run-off election against Garber last year and the Sanctuary City status became a hot button issue largely due to Chad Leger’s insistence that it was a problem and he was going to fix it. I really wanted to know some details regarding the budget and thought Leger might have some insight. I sent him a message and he called me right back.

We had a very productive conversation. Chad Leger level set my understanding of sanctuary city impacts and he was very careful to keep it positive. He admitted that he thinks he was ahead of his time regarding the sanctuary city issue during the election. Leger even had a sense of humor about how the media made him out to be a “fear monger” just for letting the voters know about their sanctuary city status. Other than that, he didn’t have any information that could help me understand the budget risks.

Therefore, I started calling individual departments at the Sheriff’s office looking for answers. I was able to talk to 4 different people before I was bounced off and told I had to talk to the sheriff’s spokesperson. Every person I talked to insisted that Lafayette has been removed from the federal list of sanctuary cities, “The Sheriff has already made the announcement” they told me. But after I read the AG’s letter to them, one person finally admitted that they were still working on meeting the requirements to be taken off the federal list.

Ok, that’s what I already figured, but I still wanted to know how big the budget risks are and after a few phone transfers I was able to speak with the Chief Financial Officer of the LPSO. I asked him, “How much of your budget is represented by federal grant money?”

The Chief Financial Officer of the LPSO gasped, and then said, “I have NOOOOOO idea. I couldn’t answer that, I really don’t know”

Let us back up and take a wide view of the LPSO budget situation. In the last year, even before taking the oath of office, Sheriff Garber allocated funds for new uniforms complete with a new LPSO badge design that includes his name. The LPSO patrol units, motorcycles and boat all received shiny new paint jobs that included the new design along with the text: SHERIFF MARK GARBER. The Sheriff’s personal office was remodeled into a palace of marble complete with a private shower. And then…. the realities of Law Enforcement valor and courage jerked Sheriff Garber's feet back to the ground after Deputies from Baton Rouge to Dallas were being targeted and murdered in uniform.

Sheriff Garber, who during his campaign promised to be frugal with the LPSO $250 million dollar budget, was suddenly begging for donations from the public through facebook campaigns and GoFundMe accounts, he even accepted the savings from a six year old child. The Sheriff kept telling his citizens:

If you wanna do something, I need body armor and medical kits because we are not prepared for current threats that face us,” Lafayette Parish Sheriff Mark Garber recalled. “We’re using rifles we confiscated from the evidence room and body armor that won’t stop a rifle round.

Sheriff Garber, July 12, 2016, KLFY

Sheriff Garber, you have proven what your priorities are and that is exactly why your deputies ARE NOT PREPARED FOR THE THREATS AGAINST THEM. 

As I’ve mentioned several times, Sheriff Garber never called me back to make a comment for this chapter and, no surprise, his spokesperson didn’t call back either. Since I never got to the bottom of my LPSO budget questions, I stepped over the line and called up Sheriff Garber’s ex wife.

Everything would have turned out a lot easier if the Sheriff would have simply answered his phone. And that goes for that police chief out there as well, and you know who you are.

Bad Guys Enter Center Stage – no costume change necessary – LEO Theater Act3

Read it by clicking  here