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Archive for the ‘Courts’ Category

My wife received an invitation in the mail Monday (March 23).

It was an invitation to a David Vitter Town Hall Meeting next Monday (March 30) in the East Baton Rouge Parish Council chambers in Baton Rouge at 9:30 a.m.

Needless to say, we are more than a little curious as to why she would get such an invitation from him inasmuch as both she and I are former Republicans now enrolled in RR (Recovering Republicans) and participating in the 12-Step Program.

To be fair, under her name in the address were the words “or current resident,” the implication being that whoever dwells in our house is invited.

Regardless, I’m not entirely certain I want my wife or any of my three daughters in the same room with this man—and not just because of the obvious—the 2007 revelations of Vitter’s association with the former (now deceased) D.C. Madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey prior to his 2004 election to the U.S. Senate (while he was serving in the U.S. House of Representatives).

Neither is it a claim by former New Orleans Madam Jeanette Maier that Vitter had been a client of hers in the late 1990s.

Nope. It’s the 1993 case of Mary Mercedes Hernandez that sounds alarms and raises red flags for me.

Who is Mary Mercedes Hernandez, you ask?

Fair question. She is a conservative Republican whom Vitter defeated in the race for the District 81seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1991.

In April of 1993, Vitter was one of 16 New Orleans-area House members who voted not to table House Bill 1013 which would have made it illegal for employers or insurers to discriminate based on sexual orientation. There was some feeling that he voted not to kill the bill so that it could be debated on the House floor—and defeated on its merits.

Later that same year, on Sept. 21, Hernandez attended a “town hall meeting” held by Vitter at the American Legion Hall in Metairie. She, along with other constituents, had been invited to attend the meeting by Vitter (we’re seeing a trend here) to “discuss state issues,” she said in a lawsuit she filed against Vitter for physically attacking her at the meeting.

Documents obtained Monday by LouisianaVoice show that Vitter counter-sued Hernandez for harassment, naming prominent state Republican officials as her co-conspirators but that in the end, a judgement was signed in favor of Hernandez and Vitter paid Hernandez a small amount of money to settle her lawsuit in March of 1998, the year before he won a 1999 special election to succeed U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston who resigned following disclosures of his own extra-marital affair. VITTER 1993 ASSAULT CASE

The amount of the final settlement—a mere $50—isn’t nearly as important as what the few pages reveal about Vitter and how he can go on the attack when challenged.

For example, among the documents obtained by LouisianaVoice was a letter written by Vitter two years after the suit was filed, and while it was still moving through the legal system, to Livingston.

The letter, dated April 12, 1995, read:

  • “Thank you very much for your recent letter inviting me to help support the East Jefferson Parish Republic PAC with a significant contribution. I have been an active participant in and supporter of the PAC in the past, and would love to continue that support. However, one matter prevents me from doing so at this time.
  • “Several months ago, a Ms. Mercedes Hernandez slapped me with an utterly frivolous lawsuit which continues to languish in the courts. This is a continuation of a personal vendetta against me on the part of not only Ms. Hernandez, but other persons active in the PAC, specifically including John Treen and Vincent Bruno. Both Messrs. Treen and Bruno were instrumental in encouraging this harassing action. In light of this and in light of these persons’ continued active involvement in the PAC, I will have nothing to do with the PAC’s fundraising efforts.
  • “I can easily tolerate sincere disagreements with people. I can even tolerate serious disagreements which lead to litigation. But I will have nothing to do with people who pervert the judicial system to harass me, carry out a personal vendetta, and directly harm not only me but my wife and child as well.”

John Treen, the older brother of the late Gov. Dave Treen, lost a 1989 special election to the Louisiana House of Representatives to Ku Klux Klansman David Duke and Dave Treen lost to Vitter in that 1999 election to succeed Livingston by a scant 1,812 votes. Bruno was a member of the Republican Party’s State Central Committee and worked in the 1999 Dave Treen congressional campaign.

So, it’s easy to see that bitter feelings were running deep when Hernandez asked Vitter during a question and answer session to explain the intent of House Bill 1013, the so-called “Gay Rights Bill,” had failed by a 71-24 vote in April of that year—with Vitter voting against passage. It might even reasonably be called ambush journalism—but sometimes that’s the only way to get an answer from some of our elected officials (see Bobby Jindal).

In her petition, she said Vitter “became agitated and enraged,” left the podium and advanced toward her in a “threatening manner, pushing aside chairs where were in his path,” and wrenched a portable tape recorder from her grasp, causing injuries to her right hand.

In the classic defense of “My dog doesn’t bite,” “I keep my dog in my yard,” “I don’t own a dog,” Vitter denied that (a) the incident occurred, (b) he had no intent to cause “physical contact or the apprehension of physical contact,” (c) “any contact was incidental,” (d) that Hernandez “sustained no injuries as a result of the alleged events in question,” and (e) Hernandez should be held in comparative negligence and assumption of risk…in mitigation or in reduction of any damages recoverable by the plaintiff…”

And then he filed a reconventional demand, or countersuit, claiming that Hernandez had gained the floor at the “town hall meeting” to “spread false, malicious and damaging information about Mr. Vitter, particularly concerning his voting record with regard to gay rights.”

Hernandez, in her answer to Vitter’s reconventional demand, described herself as a conservative Republican and active as a member of the Jefferson Parish Republican Party. She said she wanted him to explain the “Gay Rights Bill” and his position on the bill because she “had heard that he was a co-author of the bill” by former Rep. Troy Carter (D-Algiers).

(An attempt by LouisianaVoice to determine the names of any co-sponsors of the bill was unsuccessful because the Legislature’s web page which tracks bills in current and past sessions goes back only to 1997.)

She said “after being assaulted and battered” by Vitter “in front of scores of people,” she left the meeting and went to a nearby restaurant where she met a friend, Peggy Childers, who had been seated next to her at the meeting and who had witnessed the encounter.

It was Childers, she said, who suggested that she contact John Treen, “a friend and very prominent and respected member of the Republican Party, for advice. The following day, Sept. 22, she met with John Treen, Ms. Childers, Bruno (then Vice-Chairman of the Jefferson Parish Republican Party), and several others.

The judgment against Vitter was for a pittance ($50, plus judicial interest and costs is certainly that in any legal proceeding), but it did vindicate Hernandez and the entire matter illustrates the mental makeup of the man who wants to be our next governor.

(An earlier post of this story incorrectly said Vitter voted to kill the bill.)

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There’s blood in the water and the sharks are starting to circle.

To clarify the analogy somewhat, the blood is $750 million in tobacco settlement money and the sharks would be 144 state legislators and the guy masquerading as Louisiana’s governor.

Bobby Jindal, the same guy who as Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) in 1996, opposed the state’s participation in the 46-state litigation against the nation’s four largest tobacco companies, now wants to sell off the remaining portion of the 1998 settlement of that suit to generate $750 million for the state treasury.

That’s the same Bobby Jindal who as DHH secretary, was well aware that the state was spending millions of dollars per year in treatment of indigent patients for tobacco-related illnesses at the state’s charity hospitals, but nevertheless signed affidavits along with his boss, then-Gov. Mike Foster, that argued that Attorney General Richard Ieyoub did not have the authority to sue on behalf of the state and DHH.

That’s also the same Bobby Jindal who as governor in absentia, successfully opposed the lawsuit by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) against 97 oil and gas companies in an effort to hold them accountable for damages to Louisiana’s coastal wetlands, claiming that SLFPA-E did not have authority to file suit on behalf of the state.

No matter. The tobacco litigation was settled for $365.5 billion in 1998 and the state was in line to receive $4.6 billion, or $141.2 million per year for 25 years and continued payments as long as tobacco products are sold within the state as its share of the settlement. http://kff.org/other/state-indicator/tobacco-settlement-payments/

But in 2001, the state, with the support of State Treasurer John Kennedy, sold 60 percent of its settlement income as a hedge against the possibility of bankruptcy by the tobacco companies. That money was placed in a trust fund that generates revenue for health care, education and the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), the program that provides college scholarships to Louisiana high school students to meet curriculum and grade criteria.

Now, though, Jindal is proposing selling off the remaining 40 percent, a move that Kennedy opposes, saying it represents the same disastrous fiscal policy that is responsible for the current $1.6 billion structural deficit in the state budget.

Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols, in her usual condescending manner, said Kennedy does not understand what the administration is trying to do.

“The only way we will consider this is if it creates recurring revenue for TOPS,” she said, adding that the money would not be spent all at one time.

But Nichols and Jindal only have a few months left in office and have no way of guaranteeing how the money will be used and Kennedy is more than a little skeptical of Jindal’s motives. “It’s just another gimmick to generate one-time money,” he said. “It’s just not a good idea to sell the family silver.”

He said the administration does not have the authority to dictate how the money is spent. “That will be the decision of the legislature and with the history of the legislature being what it is, you know they can’t wait to get their hands on this money,” he said.

Kennedy said the proposed sale is much like the manner in which the Office of Group Benefits (OGB) saw its reserve fund reduced from $500 million to only about $100 million and still dwindling.

“The administration reduced premiums for OGB members which on the surface, looked like a great thing for the members.” What the administration didn’t say is that the move also reduced the state’s corresponding obligation to match premiums, thus freeing up money the state would have paid into OGB for helping Jindal patch his budget holes. Meanwhile, because of reduction in income from premiums, OGB found itself paying out about $14 million more in benefits each month than it was taking in, thus creating a continuous drawdown on the reserve fund.

Kennedy said the revenue from the sale of the tobacco settlement cannot be used to plug budget holes because it would have to be used for TOPS and higher education. But by dedicating the money for TOPS, it would allow the administration to take the money it would normally use for those two purposes and redirect it to the state budget.

Kennedy said the administration has taken on all the characteristics of a junkie in search of a fix.

He said Jindal’s chronic use of one-time money to fill budget holes has included selling state property, raiding the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly, indirectly taking funds from the OGB reserve fund. “When you get hooked badly enough, you will sell your shoes for a fix,” Kennedy said. “Any farmer knows it’s a bad idea to sell your seed corn because then you don’t have anything to plant next year’s crop.”

Noting that Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s bond rating agencies have already put Louisiana on negative credit watch, he said the rating agencies will take a dim view of the state’s selloff of the remainder of the tobacco settlement which is currently generating about $50 million a year for the state.

Nichols said the proposal to sell the remaining 40 percent of the settlement would have to be approved by the Tobacco Settlement Financing Corp. Board, the Legislature and the State Bond Commission. The board is scheduled to meet Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in House Committee Room 1 in the State Capitol.

Approval by the board is expected to be a mere formality since the board members are Jindal appointees.

“My fear is that all $750 million of this money will be spent,” Kennedy said. “Everyone will want a piece of the pie. That will only add to our structural deficit and what will we do next once the money is gone? We’ve got to stop thinking about the next election and begin thinking about the next generation. Don’t hold this fire sale.”

If the board does approve it and it goes before the Legislature, “we are going to do everything we can to oppose the sale,” Kennedy said.

The practice of Bobby Jindal’s selling off everything in sight to raise money is reminiscent of a 2011 comment by former State Sen. Butch Gautreaux (D-Morgan City) who, in criticizing Jindal’s practice of selling state property, suggested acerbically that perhaps the administration should consider selling the 24-story State Capitol building because “it would make a great waterslide.” http://louisianavoice.com/2011/04/29/of-water-slides-and-comparisons-between-2-state-health-plans/

 

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Troy Hebert strikes again. http://www.atc.rev.state.la.us/commissioner.php

The controversial head of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), who already has racial discrimination lawsuits pending against him after settling similar claims, has fired a veteran ATC agent while the agent was recovering from a heart attack after first having failed to do so while he was on active duty in the Coast Guard Reserve.

Hebert fired agent Brette Tingle of Prairieville by letter dated Feb. 9 which was hand delivered to Tingle’s home where he was convalescing from a heart attack.

Hebert took the action based on accusations of payroll fraud and misuse of federal grant funds after three investigations by two separate state investigative agencies cleared Tingle of any wrongdoing—and after Tingle, who is white, testified on behalf of three black ATC agents who filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against Hebert. Tingle said Hebert told him, “I’m going to f**k with Charles (Gilmore) first, then with Larry Hingle” in an effort to force them to leave the agency. Gilmore and Hingle are two of the three black agents who have filed suit against Hebert and ATC.

Tingle’s attorney, J. Arthur Smith of Baton Rouge, in an 11-page letter, has appealed the firing, accusing Hebert of “agency shopping” in his attempt to build evidence against Tingle in retaliation for his testimony in support of his fired colleagues.

Hebert’s tenure since being appointed by Bobby Jindal in November of 2010 has been tumultuous at best and disruptive to the entire agency, according to several agents who have talked privately—and publicly—with LouisianaVoice.

One of the most absurd rules put in place by Hebert was one which requires agents to spring to their feet and offer a verbal “good morning, Commissioner” whenever Hebert entered a room where agents were gathered.

Another order which conceivably could have placed an agent’s life in danger was his instruction to an agent who had been working undercover in bars in New Orleans in efforts to buy illegal drugs from dealers to cease undercover activities and to return to patrolling those same bars in full uniform.

Hebert’s accusations of payroll fraud stem from a GPS tracking system installed on ATC vehicles which Hebert said showed Tingle’s vehicle was at his home during hours he said he was working.

In leveling that accusation against his former agent, Hebert ignored that fact that Tingle often worked undercover in tandem with other law enforcement agencies, including the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office and the New Orleans office of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Together, they would conduct regular alcohol and tobacco compliance checks and it was commonplace for one of the agents to leave his state vehicle behind while conducting checks since using the state vehicle would defeat the purpose of undercover work.

When Hebert’s office was found out of compliance and ineligible for more than $100,000 in grant money from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Hebert laid the blame at Tingle’s feet even though the ATC compliance officer was Louis Thompson and not Tingle, attorney Smith said, adding that Thompson had been in charge of compliance for ATC for the entire 10 years that Tingle served as part of the DEA task force.

“These allegations are your third attempt to defame, intimidate and retaliate against Mr. Tingle,” Smith said, “because he has assisted and participated in the investigation and proceedings in connection with the EEOC charge and subsequent litigation in the case of Charles Gilmore.”

Gilmore is one of the black agents who has filed a federal lawsuit against Hebert and ATC.

Coincidentally, when the Jindal administration decided to go after former ATC Director Murphy Painter, the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR), which is over ATC, immediately launched its own investigation of Painter and federal charges of malfeasance were brought against him. He was subsequently acquitted and then won his own civil defamation suit against his accusers.

It was first shown by LouisianaVoice and later in his trial that the charges against Painter were retaliatory in nature and initiated by the Jindal administration after a dispute over his refusal to issue a permit to Budweiser to erect a tent at Champions Square across from the Louisiana Superdome. http://louisianavoice.com/2013/02/06/emerging-claims-lawsuits-could-transform-murphy-painter-from-predator-to-all-too-familiar-victim-of-jindal-reprisals/

Oddly, LDR, which has known of the Gilmore allegations since October of 2012, has yet to interview anyone about Gilmore’s claims or to initiate an investigation into the charges.

In his letter, Smith said the first attempt to bring charges against Tingle “was initiated when you (Hebert) employed (Baton Rouge law firm) Shows, Cali & Walsh to draft documentation based on one-sided and uncorroborated information. This purported ‘legal opinion’ was found to be unreliable by the Office of Inspector General (OIG).”

No surprise there. Shows, Cali & Walsh, which held 16 contracts worth a combined $3 million, skated perilously close to sanctions last year over evidence manipulation in the case of overheating on death row cells at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/01/03/baton-rouge-law-firm-with-3-million-in-state-contracts-faces-legal-sanctions-over-evidence-manipulation-in-angola-lawsuit/

“Your second attempt,” Smith continued, “was initiated in 2013-2014 when you sent a complaint to the OIG alleging that (Tingle’s actions) constituted a criminal mater.

“…OIG conducted an extensive investigation …and determined that your allegations were not accurate enough to be utilized in making a case of payroll fraud.”

Bear in mind here that Hebert is head of a law enforcement agency for the State of Louisiana and apparently does not have the capability of building a criminal case or even knowing what constitutes criminal activity.

Not that he hasn’t tried.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence supplied to you by the OIG, …you continued your campaign to defame, intimidate, and retaliate against Mr. Tingle by appealing to … the Louisiana Department of Public Safety (State Police),” Smith wrote.

“You again asserted your professed belief that your alleged facts rise to the level of a crime and you were again informed that your purported facts did not rise to the level of being sufficient to be utilized in a court of law.

“The practice of appealing to multiple investigatory agencies in search of an investigation that supported your ulterior purpose is known in law enforcement as ‘agency shopping’ and is improper,” he wrote.

Smith said that Hebert launched his first investigation into Tingle during the time when Tingle was on active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard and that following a year-long OIG investigation, Tingle and Hebert were informed by letter that indicated no charges would be brought against Tingle.

Even as Hebert was telling Tingle that he intended to get rid of two black supervisors, including Larry Hingle, he was also instructing Hingle to investigate Tingle and Hebert later told Hingle to also investigate Tingle’s wife, also an ATC employee who had recently retired.

Hingle joined Gilmore and a third black ATC agent, Daimian McDowell in filing a federal lawsuit against Hebert, ATC and LDR on Oct. 2, 2012, and Tingle was listed as a friendly witness for the plaintiffs.

More details of the events in Hebert’s office will be forthcoming in a subsequent installment this weekend. Space simply does not allow this full story to be told in a single post.

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Gov. Bobby has a serious problem.

Yeah, we know. We have to narrow that down a bit.

We already know about his ethical and moral problems. But more specifically, he has a major constitutional problem.

We’re not talking about the Louisiana State Constitution here; we’re talking about the U.S. Constitution.

And all you birthers out there who have gotten your innards twisted in knots trying to prove that President Obama is (a) not a U.S. citizen and (b) is a closet Islamist working from within to bring this country down, we have a new assignment for you along those same lines.

And you aren’t going to like it because this time the shoe is on the other foot, i.e. the right (as in right-wing) foot. What follows has been alluded to on several occasions in comments to blogs and online news stories but to our knowledge, no one has written extensively on the subject.

Now pay attention because this gets a little dicey and will require that you follow some logic and everyone knows by now that Gov. Bobby’s faithful followers aren’t very logical. They seem to prefer that he do their thinking for them.

It is common knowledge that Gov. Bobby has aligned himself solidly with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (FRC) and Gene Mills of the Family Forum. In fact, one might say that Gov. Bobby is joined at the left hip by one and the right hip by the other. Which hip doesn’t really matter.

In fact, not quite two years ago, Gov. Bobby even appointed Perkins to the Louisiana Law Enforcement Commission, though Gov. Bobby’s office, for whatever reason, steadfastly denied the appointment until it finally became the subject of national news. http://cenlamar.com/2013/09/26/bobby-jindal-appoints-unethical-hate-monger-tony-perkins-to-law-enforcement-commission/

About that same time, Gov. Bobby attended a Family Forum banquet and posed with Mills as the two held Mills’s “Gladiator” sword, whatever that is.

Bobby Jindal holding Gene Mills's "Gladiator" sword during last week's Louisiana Family Forum banquet

And just last month, it was learned that Gov. Bobby will be traveling to Israel next fall as the special guest of Perkins’ FRC. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/02/bobby_jindal_israel_tony_perki.html

Perkins and Mills, both personally and through their respective organizations, have continued to oppose abortion and to maintain that life begins at conception. That, of course, is their right but it’s important to point out here that Gov. Bobby is right there with them on this issue, even vetoing a bill that would have allowed contracts for surrogate births. In vetoing the bill, he said life is created by God, not a test tube.

In fact, Gov. Bobby has claimed that it is a biological fact that life begins at conception.

And therein lies his knotty little constitutional problem.

Are you keeping up? We hope so, because it’s about to get a bit more difficult to follow.

According to the U.S. Constitution, one must be a natural born citizen of this country to become president. And we concede that Gov. Bobby was indeed born in this country on June 10, 1971.

Without wading into the argument ourselves about just when life begins, it is nevertheless important to note that his parents immigrated to America from India when his mother was three months pregnant—meaning that while he may have been born here, he was actually conceived in India.  http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/22/world/americas/22iht-22louisiana.7991675.html?_r=1&

So here’s the logic: If life begins at conception, a claim Gov. Bobby says is supported by biological fact (and remember, he was a biology major at Ivy League Brown University), and if he was conceived in India, then he would have to necessarily be considered a native of India and therefore constitutionally disqualified from seeking the U.S. presidency.

We know that’s a bitter pill for him and Timmy Teepell to swallow, but the facts are the facts—and they are supported by no less than biological science, according to none other than Gov. Bobby himself.

So, the way we see it, he’s in something of a pickle. He has boxed himself in, outsmarted himself, as it were. Consequently, he now has no choice other than to announce that he not only will not, but cannot, seek the Republican nomination for president because of that pesky little constitutional prohibition.

We are certain that a man of his unimpeachable ethics and high moral character would never wish to ascend to the presidency on the mere technicality that he was born in this country when it must be his inevitable conviction that his life began at conception—in India.

As an added twist to the plot, let’s consider the question of religion.

Some of Obama’s detractors, and there are many (and we’re not exactly fans either, for that matter), have tossed out broad hints that he may just be a secret Islamic agent in disguise with the intent of bringing down this country on behalf of his Islamic brotherhood.

But wait! Isn’t he a Baptist? No matter. That’s just his cover.

Well, then, what about Gov. Bobby?

That’s not fair, his supporters (mostly limited to his staffers by now) might protest. Everyone knows he is a devout Catholic. Why, by his own admission, he even performed an exorcism while a student at Brown.

And what about all those visits to the north Louisiana Protestant churches where he handed out those giant federal checks to communities during his first term?

Pretty clever, eh? Pose as a good Catholic, conduct an exorcism and even write a paper about it later like it was the real deal and then suck up to the Baptists just to support your cover. Quite the chameleon. But deep down, he could be a Hindu—like his parents. Why, his parents could have been dispatched to this country by the Hindu hierarchy with the express intent of grooming him for the presidency just so he could then dismantle the entire country in the same manner that he has destroyed Louisiana’s economy, higher education and health care and then hand the entire country over to India.

We have to be completely honest, however, and admit that scenario is not only lame, but downright ludicrous. Offensive? Maybe. Politically incorrect? Most definitely.

Frankly, we much prefer the life at conception disqualification theory. It smacks of just enough hypocrisy to fit Gov. Bobby like a glove.

Plus, if it gains traction, Timmy Teepell might even actually find it necessary to go out into the private sector and work for a living like the rest of us.

 

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By Robert Burns (Special to LouisianaVoice)

When Hurricane Gustav struck south Louisiana on Sept. 1, 2008, almost three years to the day after Katrina, it set in motion a series of events that would ultimately:

  • upset the Livingston Parish political structure;
  • leave the parish facing a bill for more than $40 million in cleanup costs;
  • see a call for but never a follow up on an investigation into the formation of a fictitious corporation (at a fictitious address headed by a fictitious person) which somehow managed to be the only bidder on a lucrative contract;
  • result in the arrest of another contractor who was also serving as an FBI informant to help root out fraud, and
  • leave residents more than six years later still wondering who are the good guys and who are the bad guys.

First, some background.

The massive cleanup that followed Gustav required fast action and, regrettably, such fast action oftentimes opens the door for governmental abuse. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared that to be the case in Livingston Parish’s cleanup, and the agency denied an astounding $59 million in clean-up costs.

Crucial to FEMA’s decision was Corey delaHoussaye, a contractor hired by Livingston Parish to assist with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permitting issues nearly a year after the storm struck.  DelaHoussaye, coincidentally, also served as an FBI informant during the cleanup.  Livingston Parish District Attorney Scott Perrilloux, along with the State Office of Inspector General (OIG), have accused  delaHoussaye of submitting his own fraudulent invoices for hours they assert he did not perform work as part of his $2.3 million billings.  DelaHoussaye attorney, John McClindon, contends that the OIG got a search warrant for delaHoussaye’s residence on July 17, 2013 but delayed executing it and arresting delaHoussaye for eight days so it would coincide with a council meeting to approve delaHoussaye’s final $379,000 in invoices.  DelaHoussaye wasn’t paid, and he sued the parish for nonpayment.

Meanwhile, Perrilloux sought an indictment against delaHoussaye, but he came up one vote short in an 8-2 vote of the grand jury in December of 2013.  Undeterred, Perrilloux proceeded with a bill of information containing 81 counts, including 73 of filing false public records, but last Friday Perrilloux dropped 19 of those 73 counts.

On Monday, 21st Judicial District Judge Brenda Ricks ruled that insufficient evidence exists to proceed with a trial—a major victor for delaHoussaye.  Perrilloux presented only one witness during Monday’s hearing: OIG investigator Jessica Webb, who testified that, during times delaHoussaye charged the parish for hours worked, he sometimes was at an anti-aging clinic, at Greystone Country Club playing golf, or at Anytime Fitness working out.

McClindon, calling the OIG’s investigation “half baked,” said the OIG’s office seized his client’s computers and “looked at what they wanted to look at,” ignoring emails and failing to talk with anyone.

Similarly, at the trial of Murphy Painter, former director of the State Office Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), former OIG investigator Shane Evans testified that he merely “wrote down” what ATC employee Brant Thompson said to him regarding Painter’s being “manic depressive, out of control, and selectively enforcing alcohol statutes,” and admitted the OIG did zilch to corroborate Thompson’s assertions even though it was Thompson’s initial characterization that reportedly prompted Gov. Bobby’s firing of Painter. (Subsequent details later revealed Painter’s firing was steeped in the time-honored tradition of Louisiana politics as usual.) http://louisianavoice.com/2013/02/06/emerging-claims-lawsuits-could-transform-murphy-painter-from-predator-to-all-too-familiar-victim-of-jindal-reprisals/

A company called Comprehensive Business Solutions, with an address on Coursey Boulevard in Baton Rouge, was created by someone named Patterson Phelps of Mandeville in March of 2010, according to corporate records filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

That date was just prior to the Livingston Parish Council’s issuing invitations to bid on a lucrative contract for cleanup.

The only problem is there is no such business at the address given and in fact, never was, and no one has been able to ascertain who Patterson Phelps is, other than speculation that it was an alias for a member of the parish council who was attempting to obtain the contract for himself.

A spokesperson for the Secretary of State said the corporate papers were filed electronically with payment made by credit card and that no records exist that would reveal who was actually responsible for creating the shell company.

The parish council did indicate it would instruct Perrilloux to conduct an investigation into the identity of the mystery person, but no results of any investigation, if it was ever conducted, have been made public.

Perrilloux, apparently fuming over Ricks’ ruling, said after the hearing that he would proceed with trial anyway and added, “Just because they wear a black robe doesn’t mean they know everything.” Legally, Perrilloux cannot proceed with a trial unless Ricks’ ruling is overturned by the First Circuit Court of Appeal or the Louisiana Supreme Court. He later said he would appeal the decision.

Brian Fairburn was Livingston Parish’s Emergency Manager and Coordinator for Homeland Security at the time Gustav struck.  His job was to hire monitors who would oversee operations to ensure FEMA reimbursement eligibility.

Fairburn testified that Mike Grimmer, then-Livingston Parish President, indicated to him that he had grave concerns regarding some of the itemized charges on the FEMA project worksheet and likely would not sign off on it.  When asked why, Fairburn indicated Grimmer told him, ‘“The costs are too high and we have permitting issues.’ (He) specifically told me we were taking kickbacks, that we were just out there creating work for these contractors to do.”  When asked whom Grimmer asserted was taking kickbacks, Fairburn responded, “Jimmy McCoy (Councilman from District 2), and he included me as being in on it also.” Fairburn added that Grimmer, “tried to ruin McCoy,” and that he “wanted to show that there was trouble, corruption, and crime in the parish.”  Fairburn also testified that he was terminated soon after the Gustav project but added that when Layton Ricks defeated Grimmer for parish president, he was rehired.

Brian Fairburn testified that during a meeting on November 26, 2008, Eddie Aydell of Alvin Fairburn and Associates (no relation to Brian) expressed serious reservations about proper permitting with the Army Corps and that Aydell was “scared” the Corps would assert that permits should have been issued before work was begun.

It was at that juncture that delaHoussaye was hired to assist with permitting issues.  Brian Fairburn said that McCoy said that the parish “would not” be obtaining any Corps permits and that Grimmer “shut the project down,” after which the Corps issued a cease and desist order on drainage projects.

FEMA’s attorneys were not happy with state and parish attorneys’ attempts to turn the hearing into a trial of delaHoussaye, and they strongly objected to 20 exhibits and depositions, including photographs of delaHoussaye and his son, which they said were unrelated to the hearing.  FEMA attorney Linda Litke said, “delaHoussaye was hired a year after the disaster in 2009 to basically go through the documentation and clean up the mess……  The parish attempted to criminally indict him…..They have now attempted to proceed with criminal action against him without an indictment.  It is reprehensible that they would bring this documentation in this case……DelaHoussaye is a confirmed FBI informant.  He was a whistleblower, and that is why the parish has gone after him.”

Perhaps the most riveting testimony was that of former Parish President Mike Grimmer, who testified that McCoy signed a contract addendum even though Grimmer was the only one with authority to do so.  He said he was “unaware the contract addendum was even out there.”  He indicated the addendum greatly increased the prices, including an increase in the per linear foot price.

Grimmer stated that he got calls from irate homeowners regarding crews, “trespassing on their properties….. and the trees had been taken with no permission.”  Grimmer also testified he obtained invoices for payment on work performed at local schools and North Park which had already been paid by other local agencies.  He referenced Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s report which he testified that he’d requested.  He said it reinforced his concerns about documentation problems for cleanup operations. Grimmer’s response took “no exception” to the report.

That report also cited a contractor for hiring direct family members of Council members McCoy and Don Wheat which the report said may have violated ethics laws, so the matter was referred to the Louisiana Ethics Board.  Wheat, Councilman from District 6, responded angrily to the report and stated that Gov. Jindal’s GOHSEP’s Office had indicated the FEMA report was “fundamentally flawed” and on appeal and that Purpera, “continued with the same flaws and I urge you to correct your mistakes.”

Grimmer expressed shock when he attended an Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP) meeting in May of 2009 and a $42 million tab for wet debris removal was “dropped in my lap.”  Grimmer asked for a breakdown and, on June 9, 2009, he got one and an indication that the final tab was estimated at $92 million.  He refused to sign off on the $42 million and verbally instructed all work to cease, and the Army Corps followed up with a written cease and desist order shutting down all drainage work.

FEMA attorneys then provided the panel with a handout of a power point presentation created by Grimmer entitled, “The Truth about the Debris Cleanup.”  Slides were presented depicting:

  • an oak tree removal for $8,415;
  • two other single-tree removals for $6,570 and $4,600, and
  • a pile of limbs for $2,805.

Grimmer said those types of vastly inflated costs prompted his decision to shut down the entire project.

Grimmer, over the objections of state and parish attorneys, last May told a three member arbitration panel that he alone would have been accountable to Purpera if he’d approved the project worksheet and that contractors, monitors, councilmen, and others would all be “gone and happy.”  He expanded on how the whole episode and his decision had adversely impacted him in the community, with long-time friends and business associates distancing themselves from him and people being angry at him but that, “at the end of the day,” he felt he’d made the right decision and felt vindicated by Purpera’s report.

Cross examination at that hearing focused on Grimmer’s frosty relationship with council members and his having referenced five such members as “the five amigos.”  Grimmer confirmed McCoy and Wheat were included in the five.  Grimmer admitted that delaHoussaye shared the fact that FBI investigator Steven Sollie had contacted him and that he was cooperating in an FBI investigation of the Gustav cleanup operations.  State and parish attorneys sought to get Grimmer to admit that he “had no interest” in the project’s costs until he obtained knowledge of the ongoing FBI investigation, a charge Grimmer vehemently denied.  Grimmer also indicated that, though he couldn’t remember which one, a FEMA monitor was paid $20,000 to make debris FEMA-eligible.

The panel ruled in FEMA’s favor.

If Perrilloux follows through and if the state’s and parish’s appeal hearing of FEMA’s decision is any guide, a trial is likely to air some of the dirtiest elements of Livingston Parish political corruption.  Louisiana Voice has obtained a transcript of the 2,197 page appeal hearing, and the contents are interesting, to say the least.

Perhaps that may be why delaHoussaye attorney McClindon said after Ricks’ ruling, “It would probably be best for us all to sit down and work this whole thing out.”

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