JEFFERSON, La. -- Former Jefferson Parish Chief Administrative Officer Tim Whitmer pleaded guilty in federal court today to a single count of misprision, or concealing a felony.
In a clear but subdued voice, Whitmer, 51, admitted to Judge Mary Ann Vial Lemmon that he failed to report a wide range of alleged felonies by his former boss, ex-parish president Aaron Broussard.
Some of the alleged crimes are already the subject of an indictment against Broussard and former Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson. But some accusations were revealed for the first time Thursday, clearly turning up the heat on Broussard as he awaits trial.
After Whitmer’s plea, U.S. Attorney Jim Letten described the sprawling two-year Jefferson Parish corruption investigation as “very active.”
"I think today's guilty plea of Mr. Whitmer certainly represents a leap forward in our Jefferson Parish corruption investigation,” Letten said. “And I will tell you that it is definitely ongoing.”
In his guilty plea, Whitmer acknowledged going along with an alleged scheme to appoint Broussard's then-fiancee, Karen Parker, to a paralegal job for which she was not qualified. After Parker and Broussard married, she continued to hold the title of paralegal supervisor, but never did any paralegal work. Instead, prosecutors said, she worked for another department, processing employee I.D. cards.
Over the course of Parker-Broussard’s employment from 2004 to 2010, her pay was increased by Wilkinson from $46,000 to nearly $64,000. Prosecutors said that over the six-year period, Parker was paid more than $323,000 in salary for which she wasn’t qualified.
“Let’s remember, that’s $323,000 that other constituents didn’t get,” local FBI Special Agent-In-Charge David Welker said. “For programs, for services, for anything else that the government should be providing its citizens.”
Parker-Broussard, who pleaded guilty in January to the paralegal arrangement, is awaiting sentencing in her case. Meanwhile, Broussard and Wilkinson faces an array of charges related to her employment as part of a 39-count indictment.
Letten acknowledged Thursday that the government’s investigation may not end there.
In the “factual basis” document outlining the evidence against Whitmer, prosecutors also gave a broad outline of fresh new allegations against Broussard.
Under the heading “Broussard Abuses His Public Office,” prosecutors stated that Broussard was paid more than $40,000 as a “consulting fee” or “retainer” from a parish contractor referred to only as “Company A.” While Broussard recused himself from doing direct parish business with the firm, the “recusal was a sham,” according to the document.
“Broussard repeatedly directed Whitmer to do whatever he could to steer Jefferson Parish business to Company A,” the factual basis states.
The document also outlines Broussard’s alleged use of campaign funds for personal expenses and vacations.
Prosecutors allege that Broussard would have “fundraisers” in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, but raise only the money needed to pay for the trip.
“In addition,” the factual basis states, “Broussard used his campaign account and campaign donations to help fund his and Karen Parker’s honeymoon to France and for numerous other personal expenses.”
Broussard’s attorney Robert Jenkins could not be reached for comment.
Whitmer’s attorney Pat Fanning acknowledged that his client has been cooperating with authorities for some time. He also said that some incriminating information provided by Whitmer has yet to be revealed.
“We have discussed other things with the government that have not come to light later that were not in the factual basis,” Fanning said.
So why did Whitmer, a Jefferson Parish employee who rose through the ranks from groundskeeper to CAO, participate in criminal conduct?
"The guy had 25 years in parish government,” Fanning said. “He was working toward a retirement. So what do you do? Do you tell your boss no and lose your job and cut your retirement off? Or do you just go along? So I'm afraid he made a bad decision."
Whitmer faces a maximum of three years in prison, but his cooperation is expected to lead to a significantly lighter sentence. His sentencing is scheduled for June 28.