Shock waves reverberated in Louisiana last month when state Senator Karen Carter Peterson, chairwoman of the Louisiana Democratic Party, forced the resignations of Louisiana Gambling Board Chairman Ronnie Jones and Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Board President Walt Leger III, a former state representative. Both men had been appointees of Governor John Bel Edwards, who appointed Lieutenant Colonel Mike Noel of the Louisiana State Police to replace Jones.
The action occurred as the state Senate held a private session to consider 700 appointees by Edwards to his cabinet and dozens of boards and commissions. It left the gambling board without a chairman as Jones was overseeing the reopening of the state’s gambling industry. Peterson has had gambling problems in the past and is on the self-exclusion lists of both Louisiana and Mississippi.
“It was a total surprise to me,” Jones said of the ouster. “After the Senate had adjourned, I got a call from a staffer with the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee. He said, ‘I have to tell you that you were not confirmed.’ I said, ‘Excuse me?’ He said it again, and I said, ‘Wow.’”
He added, “This isn’t how I anticipated 46 years of state service wrapping up. I respect the process, but I don’t think it serves the citizens of the state very well.”
Peterson used an uncommon procedure allowing senators to block the appointment of an individual who is a registered voter in their district. Traditionally, senators give the governor or appointee advance notice if they have concerns, but Peterson did not do that for Jones, Leger and nine other Edwards appointees she blocked.
At the time, no reasons were given for blocking Jones or Leger.