By Kiran Chawla | Unfiltered with Kiran | September 20, 2021
An important vote is expected at Tuesday’s New Roads council meeting to override Mayor Cornell Dukes’ veto.
It goes back to Mayor Dukes’ security detail that’s provided by the New Roads Police Dept. officers. There is no ordinance for New Roads that outlines what all the mayor can and cannot do with his security detail. The only thing provided is the city attorney telling the mayor that he can use a security detail when he deems necessary. However, over the last few months, some council members started questioning the mayor’s use of the security detail and asked the mayor to stop using the detail.
At the Aug. 3rd meeting, Mayor Dukes told council members if they wanted to stop his security detail, they needed to pass an ordinance. So Sept. 7th, in a 3-2 vote, the council passed an ordinance to prohibit the detail.
Immediately, Mayor Dukes said he vetoed the ordinance, but the city attorney advised him he could not immediately veto it and had to provide a reason for the veto.
The following week, the mayor’s office sent out an email in regards to the ordinance. The mayor’s reason for the veto was that the ordinance “is deemed unamerican and unnecessary.”
In order to override the mayor’s veto, the council members must have at least four votes. That vote will happen at the Sept. 21st council meeting in New Roads.
Since all this, Unfiltered with Kiran has learned new details into what may have led council members to question the mayor’s security detail.
During the most recent July 4th weekend, a different New Roads officer had to pick up the mayor’s detail, but after he said he witnessed possible drug use by the mayor and his friends, that officer reported it to the Pointe Coupee Parish Sheriff’s Office, or PCPSO.
Per that complaint to the PCPSO, the offender is named as Cornell Dukes, the 43-yr-old mayor of New Roads, for alleged drug/narcotics use while “society” is listed as the victim.
According to the complaint, a New Roads officer, who Unfiltered with Kiran is choosing not to name, went to the PCPSO on July 13, 2021.
The officer’s security detail started July 2nd, 2021 around 12:30pm. After the festivities in New Roads for the July 4th weekend ,the officer stated that he took the mayor to his residence and was relieved of his duties for the night.
The next day, July 3rd, 2021, the officer told deputies he started his detail around 1:30pm. After the festivities in New Roads, the officer said he escorted the mayor to downtown Baton Rouge and “escorted Mr. Dukes to several bars.” The mayor and his girlfriend got into an argument according to the complaint, at which time the officer was relieved of his duties for the night.
On July 4th, 2021, the officer said he reported to duty around 10am for Mayor Dukes.
According to the complaint, the officer said while with the mayor that day, “Mr. Dukes informed him that he would have to bring him to New Orleans later that night and pick him back up at approximately 10:15am the next morning. The officer stated that upon the completion of the festivities in New Roads, LA, he transported Mr. Dukes to his residence so that Mr. Dukes may prepare to travel to New Orleans.”
The officer told deputies that he drove the mayor and his girlfriend to the Ace Hotel in New Orleans on July 4th. After taking their bags up to their room, the officer said he was relieved of his duties for the night and drove back to his home in Fordoche, La, nearly 130 miles from New Orleans. The following morning, the officer said he left his home at 7am and headed to New Orleans to pick up the mayor and his girlfriend.
Once in New Orleans, the officer said the mayor told him he “would be ready in approximately 45 minutes.” After that, the report went on to say the officer took the duo to lunch in New Orleans where they met a friend and stayed inside a restaurant for 2-3 hours.
After the lunch, the officer said the mayor asked that he, his girlfriend and the friend be transported to Bourbon St. Around 3:30pm, the officer said he escorted the three through the Bourbon St. area.
In the report, the officer said “while escorting the party, he overheard the two ladies speaking about cones. He stated that he was unaware at the time, but later determined that conversation was regarding the smoking of marijuana.”
Not long afterwards, the officer told PCPSO that the couple’s female friend they met at the restaurant went to a man and “solicited what he believed to be marijuana” and the two ladies allegedly went back to the vehicle and starting smoking it.
The report reads, “the mayor then sat in the front of the mayor’s unit and was handed the substance the two ladies were smoking. The officer then stated that Mr. Dukes began to smoke the marijuana right in his face. He stated that the party must have been able to read the expression on his face because the friend immediately stated to him, ‘Don’t worry about it. This happens all the time. The other driver (who Unfiltered with Kiran is not naming) does this stuff all the time.’ When asked what made him believe it was marijuana, the officer stated that his experience, training and a statement made led him to believe that the substance being smoked was marijuana. The officer stated that the girlfriend stated, ‘the mayor is baked and drunk at the same time. He’s never done this in public this bad’.”
Afterwards, the officer said in his complaint that the mayor and his girlfriend continued drinking while the friend took some sort of test she had to take. The report went on to read the officer then “escorted the mayor and the ladies to Rick’s Cabaret where they stayed for approximately 2-3 hours.” Rick’s Cabaret is a gentlemen’s club on Bourbon St. in New Orleans.
Unfiltered with Kiran took the complaint to Rafael Goyeneche with the Metropolitan Crime Commission in New Orleans for his input. Goyeneche is a former prosecutor turned watchdog group.
“This driver wasn’t providing security. He was just a chauffeur,” said Goyeneche. “This is in no way connected with any official duties of the mayor of the City of New Roads, strictly a personal excursion that he used public assets, a driver, marked vehicle, gasoline.”
The officer said he then transported to the friend back to her vehicle at the restaurant and took the mayor back to his residence in Baton Rouge, where he parked the mayor’s city vehicle in Dukes’ parking lot and was relieved of his duties.
The officer said he reported what happened to his police chief, New Roads Chief Kevin McDonald and he was told they would remove him from the mayor’s detail.
Goyeneche said the mayor may be in violation of malfeasance and/or abuse of office.
“The public has a right to know that the mayor believes that apparently that he’s entitled to use public assets for his own personal purposes,” said Goyeneche.
Unfiltered with Kiran did reach out to Mayor Dukes on this report. He said he had no comment.
Meanwhile, the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office continues their investigation into the matter. Once completed, it will be turned over to District Attorney Tony Clayton for his review.