This is it. I’m not taking any more phone calls from people telling me that Kevin Berken is a “convicted federal criminal.” If there’s one thing that’s on the very top of my most hated list, it’s the intense hyperbole that accompanies election season. You, dear reader, feel it too. Although you may point to different symptoms, the root of it is still the same. We can’t turn on the evening news, listen to the radio, or even sort through the myriad bills we receive in the mail without seeing or hearing this junk. The closer we come to election day, the more intense and ridiculous it all becomes.
Normally, I just chalk it up to election season. However, this one race in particular is especially egregious. To catch you up, I’m referring to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for District 7. I had written about the three BESE 7 race candidates in a previous article. However, since the primary things have really heated up.
Lies & even more lies
Even the Lafayette Mayor’s race is tame compared to what we’re witnessing in BESE 7. Sure, Monique Boulet is directing your attention to the auditor’s notes section of Lafayette’s 2022 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Yes, Josh Guillory says the city/parish will be ablaze if his opponent is elected. These things are to be expected and happen in races all over the state.
What’s not normal is for one candidate to take things entirely out of context in an attempt to destroy their opponent’s reputation forever. What we’re witnessing in BESE 7 is completely over the top. Unfortunately, this is what we’ve come to expect from candidates who have nothing substantive to offer. So, let’s jump into this pig slop and wade around for a moment. It might even be worth it.
Knezek wants you to believe that Berken is a terrible human being
These antics are starting to filter into some Republican circles, albeit on the fringes. However, these are activists. They show up to all the Republican events and spread this junk around as if it’s gospel truth. However, if you challenge them on any of these misleading headlines they just scurry away. Instead of realizing the error of their ways, they go looking to tell the same junk to someone else who’s less informed. Welcome to Louisiana politics at its worst.
What I’m writing about is the complete bile that Knezek put in his political mailer, including a photoshopped “mugshot” of Berken. Instead of addressing the silly points, let’s get straight to the ones that continue popping up. Some conversations I’ve had surrounding these accusations have convinced me that very few people know the truth. So, here they are, including my research into what’s behind these headlines. They are anathema to me and should be to you as well.
Here’s the list
- Kevin Berken is a Convicted federal criminal sentenced to thousands in fines and years of probation.
The actual facts this matter refers to appear in the Western Division Federal Court record. On December 27, 2018, a group of four hunters, which included Kevin Berken, had too many ducks in their possession. Berken pled guilty, paid a fine, and was not allowed to hunt ducks for two years. “Too many ducks” is what makes Berken a big “convicted federal criminal” in the eyes of Knezek.
- Kevin Berken forced Louisiana into an $8 million class action lawsuit by backstabbing farmers in his own backyard.
Way back in 2013, the nine-member Louisiana Rice Promotion Board unanimously decided to not refund a 3¢ per hundred-weight rice promotion fee to Carl Kreilow. The Supreme Court eventually said such decisions were supposed to be made by the Legislature. As far as I can tell, the legislature has yet to refund Kreilow’s rice promotion fee. If you didn’t already think this was petty foolishness, Berken isn’t even mentioned in Kreilow’s lawsuit from over ten years ago.
- Kevin Berken was found negligent by two different courts for crashing his farm equipment and injuring a woman.
In 2010, Berken’s insurance company was sued by Crystal Corbello for an automobile accident. The jury awarded Corbello $660 for medical expenses and $2,800 for past lost wages. Knezek is going after Berken for being involved in a minor automobile accident thirteen years ago.
Who is Erick Knezek
There’s quite a bit of “woke” associated with Knezek that was mentioned in my previous BESE 7 race article. Several of the highlights included:
- Created K-12 school policies that enshrined LBGT propaganda.
- Voted to put an unnecessary sales tax on the ballot (which voters rejected).
- Supported a non-Republican for Lafayette Mayor against the Republican Party-endorsed candidate.
- Ran (and lost) for the Republican Parish Executive Committee (the local body that endorses candidates).
These things just don’t sound “Conservative” to me. Nevertheless, Knezek sent out a mailer including a photo of Governor-elect Jeff Landry. In it, he claimed that Knezek had been “endorsed by the Conservatives we trust.” Let me just say that Jeff Landry has not endorsed Knezek. Why would Knezek put the word “endorsed” next to a photo with Jeff Landry on his mailer, unless to deceive voters into thinking Knezek had been endorsed by Landry?
However, we do know that the “conservatives we trust” have endorsed someone in the BESE 7 race. Those people are the Louisiana Republican Party, who have endorsed Kevin Berken.
Is turnabout fair play?
All of this silly junk about auto accidents and legal expenses tempted me to go look into Erick Knezek’s own legal history. Instead of traffic accidents or too many ducks, I found a nine-year-old Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission citation against Truston Technologies, listing Erick Knezek as a co-owner.
In part, the 2017 document reads:
Approximately three years ago, the United States Navy hired Respondent, Truston Technologies, to perform maintenance on mooring systems in the Middle Loch of Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii. Truston, in turn, hired Healy Tibbitts Builders to carry out certain aspects of the maintenance operation. Part of the maintenance operation involved lifting an 11,500-pound buoy approximately 75 feet above the deck of the barge where Truston’s and Healy Tibbitts’ employees were stationed. Tragically, during the course of one such lift, the buoy detached from the crane hook and fell to the deck of the barge, seriously injuring two Healy Tibbitts employees and killing two others. In response, Complainant conducted an inspection, and cited Truston for three violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
If we track that event through the court system, there are quite a few relevant documents. Eventually, the courts determined that one million dollars be paid to various parties who were damaged by that accident.
Is any of this relevant to the BESE board? Probably not. And neither is the anti-Berken garbage that Knezek printed in his mailer. What is relevant is Erick Knezek’s own actions and voting record. As we’ve mentioned previously, Knezek supported higher taxes, wrote a policy enshrining LGBT propaganda into our local school system, and pro-actively supported a candidate running against an endorsed Republican for public office. Accordingly, the Louisiana Republican Party saw fit to endorse Kevin Berkin instead of Erick Knezek.