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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

“Most of my issues happen when left to my own devices”

As part of our election coverage, The Times meets individually with the candidates and asks them to share their vision for the office they’re seeking and to address issues that have come up throughout the campaign.

So it was only natural that when Shreveport City Councilman Calvin Lester met with the editorial board to explain why he was best qualified for the District 4 state representative seat that editorial page editor Craig Durrett would ask him about his various ethics fines over the years and last month’s recommendation by the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board that Lester be suspended.

Given Lester’s history, how could voters be confident that he would practice good, ethical government?

Here’s an excerpt of Lester’s answer:

"First of all, no one can say that Calvin Lester has ever used his office to do anything other than represent his people. I’ve done that. No one can say that Calvin Lester has ever done anything unethical, illegal as a city councilman. That has not happened.

My issues with the Board of Ethics have been because I did not have an accountant to help me prepare my reports. In fact, I got that hefty fine because I paid my campaign workers in cash, which I found out was a violation. But every time that we went out we had the records, the Social Security numbers, and even the Board of Ethics folks will tell you the only way that they knew it is because I told the truth about it. If I had been dishonest about my report, they would not have caught it but I said that’s what I did. I did not know it was wrong, and I was honest and I admitted to it.

As it relates to the issue of my law license, those issues happened before I was an elected official. I was sworn in, I passed the bar. I finished law school in 1996, and I passed the bar in 1997 and I started practicing about that time. The two cases that have been reviewed, one was from 1998; I had been practicing a little bit more than a year. The other case happened in 2002, earlier in the year, before I even decided to run for office.

Let me say this, none of those issues had anything to do with the quality of my representation of my folks. … In terms of (my) personal life and (my) practicing life, the reality of it is that as a practitioner of law, there have been some things that I have done in terms of being careless and reckless and being young in the profession and not knowing that now that I have grown and now that I have matured both as a person and a lawyer, I realize the things that I was doing I should not have and I realize that there were some things that if I would have had some guidance in terms of practicing with a more senior attorney I would have known that you should do it this way vs. that way.

And certainly if I would have had additional resources in terms of professional help like a CPA, an accountant, things of that nature, a lot of those problems I had in terms of accounting with things, I would not have had because most of my issues happen when left to my own devices to account for different things and I just lost track of it in the process of a campaign.

I’ve not shirked away from those responsibilities and I have said that if there are penalties that are to be meted out to me for the violations, if there are some, I will submit to that. That’s going to be something that I will have to deal with personally and certainly my family is going to have to deal with.

But in terms of is that stopping me from being or would that prevent me from being an effective state representative, I think the answer to that is no. … I would just ask people to judge me on my record of my works and that’s all I can ask.The people who are going to believe are going to believe me. The ones that aren’t, aren’t.

But I would just ask people to look at me and look at my record of public service and I think they will find a person that has put it on the line for his constituents every day that has not enriched himself that probably in many instances has done a better job taking care of his constituents’ business than his own personal business and a lot of that is because I believe in doing this job.”


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