How Politically Motivated Is DA Jason Willliams’ Decision To Investigate Dryades YMCA & Singleton Charter School?

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Astute New Orleanians are wondering if District Attorney Jason Williams has any ulterior motives in his decision to investigate the money dealings between the Dryades YMCA and their affiliated James M. Singleton Charter School. Brought on by Singleton Charter’s ongoing inability to operate a school where test scores are at least average, the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) has been studiously delving into every nook and cranny of Singleton’s operation. From there came the discoveries that some staff members had criminal records and that Dryades might owe Singleton more than $1 million.

After all, many of the people behind Dryades and Singleton have a decades-long history of sipping from the public trough, taking full advantage of any and every opportunity to make money. Along the way they have leveraged political connections to get corporate sponsorships, federal, state and local grants, foundation support and eventually a license to operate first a school of commerce and much later a charter school. 

As their operations grew, Dryades/Singleton leadership were able to hire more people who would become foot soldiers in their BOLD political organization and help elect more candidates who could further figure out how to fill the coffers even more. In the real world of politics, this is standard operating procedure for almost all political organizations. Some groups are just smarter and less transparent than others.

The residents of Central City need quality recreation, job training and education services close to home and have come to expect their elected officials – almost all affiliated in some way with BOLD – to provide those services.

Now, after receiving damaging information from the Orleans Parish School Board, the District Attorney has decided to enter the fray. Going after the folks at Dryades and Singleton would be a popular cause for Williams to embrace and bring him great publicity. Many members of the public – including parents, quality education advocates and other charter school operators — are appalled at the way the OPSB has allowed the school to continue to operate despite poor academic performance and other serious infractions. 

It’s also well known that BOLD did not support Williams’ candidacy. In fact, their leadership– including State Senator Karen Carter Peterson and her husband Dana– were the driving force behind former judge Keva Landrum, who will probably become the next U.S. Attorney from the Eastern District of Louisiana.        

Williams could be trying to round up all the positive public support possible in light of his approaching federal trial for tax fraud now set for January 24, 2022 by presiding Judge Martin Feldman. Williams and his law partner and co-defendant, Nicole Burdett, face an 11-count indictment for conspiring to reduce Williams’ tax liability during a five year period. Though Williams tried to place the blame on his tax preparer and also claims the case is racially motivated, Feldman is still proceeding to trial. 

From his campaign rhetoric, Williams is also thought to prefer non-incarceration alternatives for all but the most egregious perpetrators. Perhaps he believes the Biden administration and its new Justice Department leadership – including former New Orleans U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite – will embrace that same philosophy. Polite spoke publicly in support of Williams shortly after his indictment. Polite’s wife, Dr. Florencia G. Polite, was a donor to Williams’ campaign for district attorney. Although Polite has recused himself from the Williams case, every federal prosecutor involved might be inclined to please their new boss if they could. 

With his own trial just months away, Williams will be moving quickly to issue subpoenas in the Dryades/Singleton case so that the fact-gathering can proceed at break-neck speed. Don’t be surprised if indictments suddenly appear in early January.   

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