5-year-old video leads to bizarre charges in Jefferson judgeship race

A 5-year-old, 4-second video posted briefly on YouTube this week — featuring Jefferson Parish Juvenile Court judgeship candidate Barron Burmaster’s teenage son sticking his finger out of his zipper and the written comment “What a Jew” — brought the race into bizarre territory.

Zoe Fleming
Zoe Fleming

Burmaster’s runoff opponent, Zoe Fleming, sent an email with a link to the video to about 100 lawyers and reporters with the subject line “Barron Burmaster Being an Ass----” but it may have done her more harm than good.

The attack drew a connection between the apparently anti-semitic comment, which Burmaster said was directed at his son by someone else, and Burmaster’s German heritage.

“Nice boy,” Fleming wrote in another email to reporters. “Where do you think he got that view? History class on hitler (sic) youth? Inquiring minds want to know.”

A written statement by Fleming quoted in a Nola.com story the next day called Burmaster “the anti semantic (sic) choice of our elected officials.”

But Fleming couched it as a counterpunch to an attack she said came from Burmaster earlier in the campaign, one that brought up a dark chapter in her past. Fleming suffered an emotional breakdown in 1991 after going through a divorce and the death of her mother. She voluntarily suspended her law license, was reportedly committed to an institution and was diagnosed as a manic-depressive.

But the Nola.com story about her attack against Burmaster included a new detail, culled from records of the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board: That she had threatened to kill herself and her daughter.

Fleming defended the email in a written statement to The New Orleans Advocate on Friday morning.

“I believe this demonstrates that Mr Burmaster, who touts his juvenile court expertise ... did not follow the basic advice given to parents of minors to keep them off of the Internet where they are exposed to embarrassment, at the least. How suitable is that failure as a parent for a juvenile judge?”

Burmaster, a Republican, has the endorsements of the two Republicans knocked out in the Oct. 19 primary, Stephen Petit and Connie Montgomery. Fleming is a Democrat.

The runoff is set for Nov. 16.

Mandeville taking a look at charter

City officials in Mandeville are looking at ways to solve some math problems. But rather than looking at the controversial Common Core math standards, they are examining the city’s charter, which was enacted in 1985.

In certain circumstances, such as overriding mayoral vetoes or bringing a matter to the voters, the charter calls for a two-thirds vote of the council — which is problematic, considering that the council has five members.

Mayor Donald Villere said he hoped the tweaks would include making the requirement a four-fifths vote, which it effectively is anyway, since four votes are needed to meet the two-thirds requirement.

“Just word-smithing” is how Villere termed the proposed changes during a recent chat. Some parts of the charter have run afoul of state laws passed since the document was enacted.

“The charter is in pretty good shape,” Villere said.

To assist in the review, the city has hired the law firm of Butler Snow, O’Mara, Stevens and Cannada, PLLC.

N.O. council faces legal quandary

The New Orleans City Council fired off a request to Attorney General Buddy Caldwell’s office this week, asking for an “expedited opinion” on an important legal issue confronting the council.

The question: Can the council legally choose a member of the city’s Civil Service Commission even though it has received only two nominees for the seat from the president of Loyola University, not the three required by the Louisiana Constitution?

In an effort to keep the commission nonpolitical, the constitution provides that several of its members are nominated by the presidents of local universities. They submit three names, and the council picks one.

In this case, though, the Rev. Kevin Wildes, who is Loyola’s president and also chairman of the Civil Service Commission — having been nominated by Tulane President Scott Cowen — submitted only two names when Loyola’s previous nominee, Amy Glovinsky, resigned on Sept. 15. Thus the legal dilemma, which the council must resolve by Nov. 13, its deadline to fill the vacancy.

Why Wildes submitted only two names was not clear.

Compiled by Chad Calder, Faimon A. Roberts III and Bruce Eggler