Despite Inspector General Stephen Street’s impassioned plea for a stay of proceedings in the Corey DelaHoussaye defamation lawsuit against the Street and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) “for the sake of conserving judicial resources and preventing the waste of valuable taxpayer dollars,” it has been brought to the attention of LouisianaVoice that one of the biggest and most expensive law firms in Baton Rouge has been retained to defend OIG.
And apparently it’s not enough that the firm Taylor Porter was retained but the firm has assigned not one, not two, but three of its attorneys to the DelaHoussaye matter.
As evidenced by OIG’s MOTION TO STAY PROCEEDINGS filed on Nov. 15, Taylor Porter attorneys Preston Castille, Jr., Katia Bowman and Ne’Shira Millender signed off as “Special Assistant Attorney General Counsel to OIG Defendants.”
Talking about using a baseball bat to swat a gnat…
Not that DelaHoussaye is a gnat by any means. He appears to have a pretty solid case against Street and OIG, given that his home was raided by Street on the basis of a search warrant the OIG has no authority to issue and based on the fact that Street initiated the prosecution of DelaHoussaye even though DelaHoussaye did not work for any state agency.
It’s also telling that by the attorneys signing off as “Special Assistant Attorney General” counsels for OIG it is implicit that the Taylor Porter contract was issued by the Office of the Attorney General.
You may remember how Attorney Jeff Landry got his drawers in a wad over Gov. John Bel Edwards’ appointment of attorneys to represent the state in litigation against oil companies for their contribution to the destruction of Louisiana’s coast. Landry just flat refused to sign off on the contracts and Edwards was forced to cancel their appointments.
That’s because State law gives the attorney general the final say-so in approving the appointment of all lawyers who represent the state.
So what’s wrong with that? Not much except that LIZ MURRILL is Chief of the Attorney General’s Civil Division and as such has direct supervision over Taylor Porter.
Now I’m not an attorney but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once and it appears to me that the Taylor Porter contract comes awfully close to a violation of the STATE ETHICS CODE which says, in part:
- GENERAL PROHIBITIONS (R.S. 42:1111 – 1121): For public servants, other than legislators or appointed members of boards and commission, bidding on or entering into any contract, subcontract or other transaction under the supervision or jurisdiction of the public servant’s agency. This restriction also applies to the immediate family members of the public servant and to legal entities in which the public servant and/or his family members own an interest in excess of 25 percent. (Emphasis added)
Granted, John Murrill doesn’t “own” 25 percent of Taylor Porter but he is a partner in the firm.
And the State Ethics Law covers that little contingency when it goes on to say:
- 1112 – Participation by a public servant in a transaction involving the governmental entity in which any of the following persons have a substantial economic interest: (1) the public servant; (2) any member of his immediate family; (3) any person in which he has an ownership interest that is greater than the interest of a general class; (4) any person of which he is an officer, director, trustee, partner, or employee; (5) any person with whom he is negotiating or has an arrangement concerning prospective employment; (6) any person who is indebted to him or is a party to an existing contract with him and by reason thereof is in a position to affect directly his economic interests. (Emphasis added)
Does Taylor Porter and thus John Murrill have an “economic interest” through contracts with the Attorney General’s Civil Division?
Well, consider this: Taylor Porter, from August 2015 through November 2016, was approved for 13 contracts totaling more than $2 million, about $160,000 per contract on average.
And that didn’t even include Taylor Porter’s contract to defend OIG. That contract has yet to be entered on the state’s online LaTrac program, which lists contracts with every state agency.
Perhaps there is a perfectly logical explanation for all of this. If so, we’d love to hear it.
Otherwise, we’ll just refer to the immortal words of the late C.B. Forgotston:
“You can’t make this stuff up.”