Witnesses continue to be interviewed in an ongoing investigation of alleged criminal activity by Fourth Judicial District Court officials, which stems from accusations leveled by Monroe businessman Stanley Palowsky in his lawsuit against a former business partner.
The Ouachita Citizen learned that a number of people were interviewed Thursday, Jan. 7 behind closed doors in the grand jury room at the Ouachita Parish Courthouse Annex. The identities of the individuals interviewed were not disclosed. Subpoenas issued to secure their statements were sealed.
The interviews were conducted by state Inspector General investigator Heath Humble, Louisiana State Police Det. Ron Huey and Assistant District Attorney Geary Aycock of the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s office. Those three did not exit the grand jury room until several hours after the interviews had concluded.
They would not comment on what was discussed in the grand jury room.
“The investigation into the allegations should be wrapping up soon and I cannot comment further until it’s completed,” said Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry Jones.
He said state ethics laws prevent him from commenting on ongoing investigations.
“We can’t comment about ongoing investigations, but when we get to the end, we can then possibly sit down with you,” said state Inspector General Stephen B. Street Jr.
Street confirmed in July that his office was establishing a presence in northern Louisiana to investigate public corruption and that Humble would be the investigator. At that time, Fourth Judicial District Court administrator Benjamin Jones said the judges would cooperate in the investigation into accusations outlined in a criminal complaint filed by The Ouachita Citizen.
The newspaper filed the criminal complaint in March after the court refused to release information from law clerk Allyson Campbell’s personnel file. The court, under the direction of chief Judge Stephens Winters, released some information that showed Campbell was not paid during the month of May 2014, but refused to disclose why she was absent from work.
Representing Palowsky in the lawsuit Stanley R. Palowsky III v. W. Brandon Cork and others, Covington attorney Joseph Ward accused Campbell of destroying or intentionally misplacing documents related to Palowsky’s lawsuit.
Jones, the district attorney, told The Ouachita Citizen the accusations leveled by Ward would be investigated as would the findings of an independent audit of the court that alluded to possible payroll fraud by Fourth Judicial District Court employees. The Legislative Auditor’s Office released the audit in 2015.
In filings with the court related to the Palowsky lawsuit against Cork, Campbell also was accused of stacking more than 50 writ applications beside her desk instead of properly processing them. That accusation surfaced in Ward’s motion to recuse Judge Wilson Rambo from presiding over Stanley R. Palowsky III vs. W. Brandon Cork and others because, according to Ward, Rambo was biased against Palowsky and Ward. Rambo recused himself but denied he had exhibited bias toward Palowsky or Palowsky’s attorneys, Ward and Sedric Banks of Monroe.
When Jones, the court administrator, was asked whether the writ applications allegedly found in Campbell’s office had belonged to one judge — Judge Carl Sharp — he would not comment, stating that matter would form part of any forthcoming investigation.
When The Ouachita Citizen learned that court employees had possibly been subpoenaed for the Jan. 7 interviews, a deputy clerk at the Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court’s office said some subpoenas had been filed, but they were under seal and she was unsure which case they involved.
Street said that most of the subpoenas issued by his office are filed with the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge. He said some are public, but most are sealed to protect the names of witnesses.