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Archive for the ‘GOHSEP’ Category

Louisiana’s Inspector General Stephen Street recently accused LouisianaVoice of not letting facts get in the way of a good story.

He should know.

It was Street’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) that went after Corey Delahoussaye for overbilling for hurricane cleanup in Livingston Parish at the same time Delahoussaye was working as an informant for the FBI to assist in challenging more than $50 million in charges submitted to FEMA by Livingston Parish.

It was Street’s OIG that raided Delahoussaye’s home with the assistance of the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office in the early–morning hours on July 25, 2013, even though nowhere in the statute establishing OIG is the agency authorized to obtain search warrants. The raid was conducted at 6 am with multiple agents bearing firearms in a home that was only occupied by Mr. and Ms. Delahoussaye and their two young children.

It was OIG that served subpoenas on Delahoussaye’s fitness club and his doctor seeking personal and medical records even though state law requires a judge to issue a written reason for the subpoena. No such written reason was ever obtained.

But never let law get in the way of a good raid.

The Office of the State Inspector General was established by the Louisiana Legislature. Its purpose is set forth in LA R.S. 49:220.1-220.26. Section 220.21 reads in part:

  • The prevention and detection of waste, inefficiencies, mismanagement, misconduct, abuse, fraud, and corruption in all departments, offices, agencies, boards, commissions, task forces, authorities, and divisions of the executive branch of state government as specifically provided in Title 36 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes of 1950, all hereinafter referred to in this part collectively as “covered agencies” and individually “covered agency” is an important responsibility of the state.”
  • In the view of the responsibility of the state, it is the purpose of this part to establish an independent office of the state Inspector General in the office of the Governor to examine and investigate the management and affairs of the covered agencies.” (Emphasis added)

Livingston Parish, with whom Delahoussaye was contracted, is not part of the executive branch of state government. Accordingly, OIG had no authority to carry out a raid on Delahoussaye. None. Nada. Zilch.

The obvious solution was to claim he was contracted to the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP). Except he was not and never had been.

Never let facts get in the way of a good witch hunt.

Of course Street was not alone in this exercise of the absurd. Scott Perrilloux, District Attorney for the 21st Judicial District which includes Livingston Parish, took his “evidence” to a grand jury which promptly refused to indict Delahoussaye. Undeterred, Perrilloux simply proceed to indict Delahoussaye on a bill of information. After all, there were $56 million in bogus charges for Livingston Parish cleanup uncovered by…Delahoussaye. But they thought they had Delahoussaye dead to rights for a couple of thousand dollars in unwarranted charges they said, incorrectly, it turns out, that he billed for.

Instead, all the charges were thrown out and now Delahoussaye is out for his pound of flesh as payback for the hell Street and Perrilloux put him through—as he should be. He has filed a DEFAMATION-LAWSUIT against OIG and now Street, after spending untold thousands of dollars pursuing criminal charges and now that the is suddenly a defendant in an unexpected turn of events, suddenly is thinking about the horrific costs to be incurred by the state in the discovery phase of Delahoussaye’s lawsuit. SAVING-TAXPAYER-DOLLARS

“For the sake of conserving judicial resources and preventing the waste of valuable taxpayer dollars, the OIG requests a stay of this proceeding, including a stay in discovery,” read OIG’s motion to stay proceedings pending a First Circuit Court of Appeal decision on OIG’s writ application. (Emphasis added)

Okay, so Street wants to talk about “wasted taxpayer dollars?” How about the sheer volume and man-hours for lodging an almost-guaranteed-to-fail appeal? Here’s the link for the OIG’s APPEAL: It rambles on for 169 pages on something that is almost certain to fail based on an earlier ruling by the First Circuit wherein the court said that if a state agency lacks jurisdiction to investigate (as 21st JDC Judge Brenda Ricks made it clear in her rulings), then a cause of action can survive a motion for Preemptive Exception based on “invasion of privacy.”

So, bottom line, we have the Office of Inspector General:

  • Serving subpoenas absent the required judge’s written reasons;
  • Carrying out an early morning raid on the basis of a search warrant even though the law creating OIG never gives search warrant power to the agency, and
  • Taking a leadership role in carrying out the raid even though that same law relegates OIG to a “back seat” role once it determines it has credible information of criminal activity.

Finally, that “credible information” is the belief that Delahoussaye was contracted by GOHSEP when in fact, his contract was with Livingston Parish.

But never let facts…..

And only after all that did it occurred to Street that he should suddenly now be concerned with conserving judicial resources and preventing the waste of valuable taxpayer dollars.

Lest we forget, this is the same agency that went after former State Alcohol and Tobacco Control Director Murphy Painter when Painter got crossways of Bobby Jindal and one of his biggest campaign contributors, Saints owner Tom Benson.

And we know how that turned out: The state had to end up paying Painter’s legal costs of $474,000 after Painter was exonerated in federal court.

 

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Billy Broussard of Breaux Bridge has been fighting a lonely battle for a decade. He has lost in court against a stacked deck and before a judge who appeared predisposed to rule against him at every turn and to verbally berate him in the process.

And now, LouisianaVoice has learned that someone who calls himself an attorney is doing all he can to add threat to injury. When you read the letter from a Lake Charles attorney—actually written nearly a year ago but which only recently came into our possession—you have to wonder where he got his law degree.

Briefly, Broussard’s story started after Hurricane Rita hit Calcasieu Parish back in 2005, just a few weeks behind Katrina.

Broussard was contracted by Calcasieu officials to clean debris from the storm. But, he said, officials started adding work assigned in the original contract. Debris which was in Indian Bayou and Little Indian Bayou before the storm were ordered cleared. The bayou was in close proximity to a high-ranking parish official, Broussard says.

The problem arose when FEMA refused to approve payment for removal of pre-existing debris and Calcasieu Parish refused to make up the difference of something a little north of $1 million.

It didn’t much matter to FEMA that Mike Higdon, the man responsible for making eligibility determinations/ordering and directing work on the Indian Bayou project, is a half-brother to John Reon, superintendent of Gravity Drainage District 8, for whom Broussard performed his cleanup work.

making eligibility determinations/ordering and directing work on the Indian Bayou project (Mike Higdon) where he acknowledges that he is a brother of the superintendent of GDD8 John Reon.

Broussard sued and lost but he persisted in seeking public records that would support his position so that he could turn the information over to the media, LouisianaVoice included.

And those efforts to obtain public records led to a threatening letter-from-attorney-russell-stutes-jr which instead of harassment on Broussard’s part, would appear to border on harassment by someone attempting to use his position as an attorney to intimidate Broussard.

“Over the past several weeks, I have received numerous complaints by Calcasieu Parish officials regarding your repetitive public records requests…with respect to the Indian Bayou/Little Indian Bayou project,” Stutes’s letter begins and quickly went downhill from there.

Following more verbiage from Stutes, he incredulously wrote, “…all Calcasieu Parish employees have been instructed not to respond to any additional requests or demands from you associated with the project.”

As to underscore his bullying tactic, Stutes also wrote later in the letter, “Accordingly, the next time any Calcasieu Parish employee is contacted by you or any of your representatives with respect to the project, we will proceed with further civil actions and criminal charges. A rule for contempt of court will be filed, and we will request injunctive relief from Judge (David) Ritchie. Given Judge Ritchie’s outrage at your frivolous claims last year, you and I both know the next time you are brought before him regarding the project, it will likely result in you serving time for deliberately disregarding his rulings.”

Say WHAT?! Who the hell does Stutes think he is, the judges from the Fourth Judicial District in Monroe who filed SUIT against the Ouachita Citizen newspaper in West Monroe because the publication requested public records? Or Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White, who SUED two educators when they sought public records? (Note to Stutes: White lost that little gambit decisively in 19th Judicial Court in Baton Rouge.)

If Mr. Stutes would bother to take the time to read Louisiana Revised Statute 44.1 (et seq.) R.S. 44.1 (et seq.) which states unequivocally that any citizen 18 years or older has an unfettered right to review (and purchase copies of) any public record in the possession of any public body from the smallest hamlet in the state right on up to the office of the governor.

There is nothing in that statutes that says one can be prohibited from obtaining public documents simply because he came out on the short end of the stick in a court of law.

Likewise, Louisiana Revised Statute 42:4.1 (et seq.) R.S. 42:4.1 (et seq.), specifically R.S. 42:4.4(c) clearly states that all public bodies “shall provide” and opportunity for comments from citizens.

“Consider this your final warning, Mr. Broussard,” Stutes wrote. The harassment of Calcasieu Parish employees must completely and immediately cease. Otherwise, we are prepared to follow through with all remedies allowed by law.”

What a crock.

Let me tell you something, Mr. Stutes. I understand you are contracted by Calcasieu Parish officials, be it the police jury or the gravity drainage district. It doesn’t matter which one, but should I (and I am not Mr. Broussard’s “representative”) decide I wish to obtain public records from either of these bodies, woe be unto anyone who attempts to harass me with a letter like the one you wrote to Mr. Broussard.

It is I who shall follow through with all remedies allowed by law, including fines of up to $500 per day and possible jail time for non-compliance.

Do yourself a favor and read the public records and public meeting laws of the Gret Stet of Looziana.

They’re quite enlightening.

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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.

http://gov.louisiana.gov/page/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

http://www.wbrz.com/news/shelter-at-home-program-leaves-mess-in-st-amant-home/

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?

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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.) https://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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Senator Daniel R. Martiny's Picture

STATE SEN. DAN MARTINY

C.B. Forgotston may have opened a can of worms…with the unwitting help of State Sen. Dan Martiny (R-Metairie)—and much to Martiny’s chagrin.

Forgotston, you see, is an independent old cuss who used to work for the legislature and he has been serving for a number of years now as an unofficial overseer of all things state government and few events escape his skeptical critique of the actions and motives of elected officials, particularly legislators, or as he calls them, leges.

Called “King of Subversive Bloggers” by no less an expert on cynicism than Baton Rouge Advocate columnist James Gill, Forgotston is beholden to no one and any leges who crosses swords with him does so at his own peril.

Martiny may have found out the hard way when he sent this email to Forgotston Sunday around 4:16 p.m. informing C.B. that his emails to the good senator were no longer welcomed:

From: “Martiny, Sen. (Chamber Laptop)” <dmartiny@legis.la.gov>

To: “C.B. Forgotston” Date: Sun, 15 Feb 2015 16:16:34 -0600 Subject:

Re: Where’s Buddy?

Take me off your list until u do something positive about anyone.

Martiny was responding to Forgotston’s “Where’s Buddy” post in which he took Attorney General Buddy Caldwell to task for the AG’s reluctance to do his job in telling the Caddo Parish Commissioners they are in violation of the Louisiana State Constitution by virtue of their illegal participation in the Caddo Parish retirement system.

Forgotston noted that Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera has done his job in saying commissioners’ participation in the retirement system is illegal but Caldwell, as has been his M.O. since taking office, has been strangely quiet on public corruption.

And while there is certainly nothing wrong in going after free-lance pharmaceutical salesmen (drug dealers), child pornographers and the like, Caldwell has displayed an obvious dislike for making waves in the political waters and has steadfastly run from public corruption cases.

And we know that while the 1974 State Constitution took much of the prosecutorial duties from the attorney general, the AG is still the legal adviser for all state agencies and if nothing else, Caldwell should step forward and whisper in officials’ ears when they are seen skirting the edge of the law. (Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols’ open violation of the state’s public records law comes immediately to mind. So does Auctioneer Board attorney Larry Bankston’s advice to the board to actually refuse to release public records.)

But we digress.

If you notice, Martiny’s message for C.B. to delete future mailings to him was written on his Senate chamber laptop, which some might interpret as an unwillingness on his part to hear from citizens on matters that concern them.

“My periodic mailings address issues of concern to me primarily about state and local government,” Forgotston said on Monday.

“The mailings are sent to each lege via a public server owned by taxpayers. The address to which it is sent is also provided by the taxpayers.”

Forgotston said that after a “gentle reminder,” Martiny, an attorney, relented and acknowledged the provisions of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“Other leges may not be as familiar with the First Amendment as is Martiny,” he said. “As a public service, here is some background on the First Amendment which leges might find useful in dealing with members of the public.

“The First Amendment states, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.’” (Emphasis Forgotston’s)

The right to freedom of speech, he says, “allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. (Emphasis Forgotston’s)

“The right to petition the government for a redress of grievances guarantees people the right to ask the government to provide relief for a wrong through the courts (litigation) or other governmental action. (Emphasis Forgotston’s)

“Not only do we have a right to contact the leges regarding matters of government, they are prohibited from interfering with our exercise of that right,” Forgotston said. “That includes the blocking of emails as some leges have done in the past.

“Any lege not wishing to receive my communications, please forward me a copy of your letter of resignation from the lege and you will be promptly removed from all future mailings.”

Now, just to give you a little background on Sen. Martiny, who:

  • Fought a bill by State Sen. Dan Claitor (R-Baton Rouge) which would have prevent legislators from leaving the House or Senate and taking six-figure jobs in order to boost their state retirement. It’s worth noting that several legislators had been appointed to cushy state jobs by the Gov. Bobby administration. Noble Ellington of Winnsboro was named second in command at the Louisiana State Department of Insurance at $150,000 per year; Jane Smith of Bossier City was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Department of Revenue ($107,500), though she admitted she knew nothing about taxes or revenue; Troy Hebert of Jeanerette was named Commissioner of the Louisiana Alcohol and Tobacco Control Board ($107,500); Kay Katz of Monroe, named to the Louisiana Tax Commission ($56,000); former St. Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis named Director of Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness ($165,000), and former St. Bernard Parish President Craig Taffaro was appointed Director of Hazard Mitigation and Recovery ($150,000).
  • Pushed through an amendment that gutted Senate Bill 84 by Sen. Ben Nevers (D-Bogalusa), a bill originally designed to protect vulnerable borrowers from predatory payday lenders. Nevers sought to cap payday loan annual interest rates at 36 percent which was an effective way to rein in those lenders who were charging annual percentage rates of up to 700 percent. Martiny’s amendment removed the APR cap and instead simply limited borrowers to 10 short-term loans each year.
  • Pushed through a bill that was subsequently signed by Gov. Bobby which prohibited state contractors from entering into agreements with labor unions, prohibited public entities from remaining neutral toward any labor organization, and prohibited the payment of predetermined or prevailing wages.
  • Introduced a bill that was subsequently signed by Gov. Bobby which re-created 17 state boards, offices and commissions. Louisiana already has far more boards and commissions than any other state but apparently no one saw a need for reducing the number.
  • Introduced a bill subsequently signed into law by Gov. Bobby that gave judges on state district courts, courts of appeal and the Louisiana Supreme court pay raises ranging from 3.7 percent to 5.5 percent—even as Louisiana civil service employees were forced to go without a pay raise for the third straight year.
  • Introduced but later withdrew a bill that would have allowed the Louisiana Department of Economic Development (DED) the authority to offer air carriers a rebate of up to $500 annually for each incremental international passenger flying to or from a state airport for a period of up to five years.
  • Introduced a bill allowing DED to offer tax credits refundable against corporate income and corporate franchise taxes for businesses agreeing to undertake activities to increase the number of visitors to the state by at least 100,000 per year. (We’re beginning to see the problem with the state’s economic incentive tax breaks here).
  • Introduced a bill to provide tax credits for solar energy systems of up to 50 percent of all costs.
  • Introduced a bill that would have allowed the Commissioner of Insurance to fire the Deputy Commissioner of Consumer Advocacy without cause.

Let’s examine that very last one again. Louisiana law provides for the appointment of a deputy commissioner of consumer advocacy by the Commissioner of Insurance.

This is important, provided that person is wholly independent of Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon who gets the bulk of his campaign finances from insurance companies he is supposed to regulate.

Donelon, obviously, cannot be expected to ride herd over his benefactors. That’s just not the way politics works in Louisiana. So a consumer advocate in the department is critical—especially after all those stories about Allstate and State Farm denying legitimate claims from Hurricane Katrina and other tactics such as the Delay, Deny, Defend strategy as taught the insurance companies by Gov. Bobby’s former employer, McKinsey & Co.

The law provides that the consumer advocate may be terminated only for cause.

But Martiny wanted to change that and though the bill did not pass, one has to wonder about his motives.

To learn that, you’d probably have to email him at dmartiny@legis.la.gov

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