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Ex-parish president gets 4 years in prison

Janet Mcconnaughey, Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A former Jefferson Parish president was sentenced Monday to almost four years in prison for bribery and his role in a payroll fraud scheme involving his ex-wife.

Aaron Broussard will serve 46 months for conspiracy and theft charges, the minimum under federal sentencing guidelines. He and former parish attorney Tom Wilkinson were charged with plotting to give a lucrative parish job to Broussard's ex-wife, Karen Parker. Prosecutors say Parker was paid $323,000 over six years for a job she wasn't qualified to hold and duties never performed. All three pleaded guilty in the scheme.

The three must pay a total of $214,000 to repay Jefferson Parish for salaries and benefits. Broussard also must turn over $66,000 in bribery money from a parish contractor who pleaded guilty separately and has not been sentenced.

In court, Broussard said, "I accept full responsibility for all my actions. I was sincerely wrong."

Parker and Wilkinson each was sentenced to three years of probation.

Head said the important thing is for Jefferson Parish to get its money back. But, he said, "I think we're going to be lucky for Jefferson Parish to get its money from" Broussard. Head ordered him to pay $500 a month while in prison and rejected a recommendation that he perform community service during his probation, saying he should be able to work full time to pay his debt.

The judge ordered Parker to pay $100 a month, but attorney David Courcelle said she had been told she would lose her job at a car wash once sentenced. "The court recognizes that the defendant is not likely even to be able to pay $100 a month," Head said.

He said Wilkinson's financial statements show he can pay the entire amount, and he must pay $53,800 — the amount representing his own share — immediately.

Broussard also admitted taking bribes from Kenner businessman William Mack. Mack and Tim Whitmer, the parish's former chief administrative officer, also have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced later.

Broussard asked to be assigned to a prison in Pensacola, Fla., so his brother can bring their frail mother to visit him. Head agreed, as long as the facility meets federal Bureau of Prisons requirements.

Broussard, a Democrat best known outside Louisiana for sobbing during a TV interview after Hurricane Katrina, resigned as president of the populous New Orleans suburb in 2010, ending a political career that spanned four decades.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Klebba described the conspiracy to the judge, with Broussard and Walker meeting to create "this sinecure position for Miss Parker."

Head said the crucial point was that some of the parish money paid to Parker and Wilkinson "circled back to the person in a position ... to give the money."