Before you accept the state’s Shelter at Home program, you may want to consider the quality of workmanship—or lack thereof—that some 2016 flood victims who have participated are experiencing. http://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge/news/politics/article_3116e8b6-7abb-11e6-91c5-d3139b79d965.html?sr_source=lift_amplify
While you should beware of shoddy work by contractors, you should also consider that all work done will likely need to be re-done and makeshift (inferior) plumbing will have to be replaced at your cost.
If that is not enough to convince you, you may wish to follow an important trial scheduled to begin in the 19th Judicial District courtroom of District Judge Tim Kelly on October 3.
The upcoming trial is over the foreclosure on rental property owned by Metairie resident Tony Pelicano and his company, L&T Development. Pelicano also has legal action pending against defendants the State of Louisiana through the Office of Community Development, The Shaw Group, Inc., Woodrow Wilson Construction Co., both of Baton Rouge, and Western Surety Co. of Sioux Falls, S.D.
Pelicano purchased a rental house on Turnbull Street in Metairie on April 28, 2005, just in time for it to be heavily damaged four months and one day later when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans on Aug. 29.
Pelicano, like victims of the flood almost exactly 11 years later (Aug. 11-14), was solicited by the state to take part in a state-sponsored recovery program.
In the case of Katrina, it was the Office of Community Development (OCD) that oversaw the Post-Katrina Disaster Housing Assistance and Household Transition Program. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/pdredge/pdr_edge_research_041913.html
With the floods of 2016, it is the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) that took over the Shelter at Home Program.
The Shelter at Home Program provides up to $15,000 to make a flood-damaged home habitable while the dwelling is being repaired. But the homeowner has no say in the choosing of a contractor to do the work. Nor does the homeowner receive any of that $15,000; all monies paid out go to the contractor.
Sound familiar? It should. It’s déjà vu all over again.
Despite the fact that Tony Pelicano is himself a contractor, he was told that not only could he not select his contractor for the Rental Assistance Program, but he could not even do the work himself. Nor did he receive funds to pay the contractor; that was paid by the State Office of Community Development directly to the contractor.
In both cases, the homeowner has no say about the quality of work, is unable to withhold payment should the contractor, who was not of his choosing, should do substandard work. http://www.wafb.com/story/33133888/video-raises-questions-about-shelter-at-home-program
And that is precisely why Pelicano is headed for trial the first week in October.
At the outset, a community block grant was awarded in the amount of $75,000 with the additional $14,595 in costs to be paid by Pelicano at closing.
OCD then selected Woodrow Wilson Construction Co. to serve as contractor. When Pelicano requested the ability to select his own contractor, “OCD advised him he was not entitled to have any say nor (sic) input with respect to the employment of Woodrow Wilson for the rehabilitation and reconstruction project,” one of Pelicano’s court filings says.
In September, 2009, Pelicano was personally solicited by the State of Louisiana, through Mark Maier, Program Director of the Small Rental Property Program for OCD and a principal of Maier Consulting, to submit an application to become the first test applicant with the Small Rental Program through the State Office of Community Development, Pelicano says in a sworn affidavit.
“This Program administers federal funds to small rental property owners in order to facilitate the reconstruction of small rental properties in order to return them to commerce, post-Katrina, and provide affordable housing for Katrina victims,” he said. “This is accomplished through a forgivable loan of $75,000.00 and we personally put up the additional sum of $14,595.00 from our own personal funds.
In May 2012, Pelicano said he attended a meeting in Baton Rouge attended by Maier, OCD Supervisor for the Small Rental Program Brad Swayze and Dan Rees, also of OCD. When Pelicano protested that construction change orders were made without his knowledge or consent, he says he was threatened and told he had no rights to his own property. Pelicano claims he was told if he contacted the media, his bank note would be accelerated and that a lawsuit would be filed against him—“threats that OCD fulfilled,” he says.
Those change orders included, among others:
- Substituting non-pressure treated lumber instead of the pressure treated lumber called for in the building specifications;
- Sloppy fittings of windows which allowed moisture to invade the structure;
- Relocating the hot water heater to a location that could pose a threat of fire, and
- Cutting a hole in the door in order to make the hot water tank fit.
Pelicano subsequently hired a professional engineering and inspection firm, Gurtler Brothers of New Orleans, to evaluate the reconstruction efforts. He presented copies of the firm’s photos-and-report and asked that immediate action be taken to remedy the conditions of the property.
“OCD refused,” he says, “and instead, contacted another construction company, Lago Construction Co. (which is not an engineering nor a qualified inspection firm) to conduct an ‘impartial’ inspection.”
Lago then issued a report passing off defects “as either minor or simply not in need of fixing,” Pelicano says.
Incredibly, Pelicano later learned that Lago was a business partner with Maier Consulting, headed by that same Mark Maier who simultaneously served as Program Director of the Small Rental Property Program for OCD. http://images.bimedia.net/documents/Lago+-+SRPP+Labor+Analysis+10-25-12.pdf
No conflict of interest there, right?
Oh, wait. It gets better.
The head of Lago, Praveen Kailas, whose family poured more than $23,000 into Bobby Jindal’s campaigns in 2003, 2007 and 2011, pleaded guilty in 2013 to federal charges of fraudulent billing in the…(wait for it)….Louisiana Road Home’s Small Rental Property Program. http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/southcentral/2013/08/22/235416.htm
Jindal’s office said it launched an internal investigation but dropped the probe when Mark Maier, the consultant (and, did we mention, coincidentally, Program Director of the Small Rental Property Program for OCD?) wrote a note absolving Lago of any wrongdoing.
He wrote a note, folks, clearing his business partner of wrongdoing but relied on that same business partner to block recovery by a man ripped off by the very program he headed.
Perhaps someone should have written a note for Richard Nixon, or John Wayne Gacy, or Mark David Chapman, or John Hinckley, Jr., or former U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, or former Federal Judge Thomas Porteous.
We could go on but you get the idea: He wrote a damned note to clear his partner but that same tainted relationship played a major role in events that today see the state trying to foreclose on Tony Pelicano.
What could possibly be wrong with this picture?
What could possibly go wrong with the Shelter at Home Program?
And did Jindal return any of that $23,000 from the third (at a minimum) convicted felon who contributed big bucks to his campaigns?
Or did he write a note on their behalf?