Let’s tie a few Jefferson Parish odds and ends together as Slabbed welcomes Chris Roberts and Dutchie Connick to the party

Folks the political class in Jefferson Parish takes the word “brazen” to another level. Our long time readers know that I am a fan of the old TLC series Connections so let’s make a few and begin with the agenda for tomorrow’s Parish Council meeting which I’ve embedded courtesy of Scribd:

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I invite the Slabbed Nation to scroll down to item 84 which I quote:

Resolution – requesting the Parish President to investigate the feasibility and to provide a cost-benefit analysis for the expansion of the Parish Attorney’s Office to allow said office to provide legal services in-house which are currently being provided by outside contracted law firms. (Mr. Roberts)

This agenda item is related to the post we did last week on the Tuesday Night Massacre where assistant Parish Attorney Louis Gruntz refered to former Parish Attorney Tom Wilkinson as “his client” despite the fact he represented the Parish. Now Councilman Chris Roberts is doing an end run a round the Parish Charter to allow the in-house lawyers to double deal and represent Parish employees that get in trouble due to their double-dealing. In essence this resolution allows Louis Gruntz to aid the disgraced Tom Wilkinson. So the question is why would Chris Roberts carry water for these disgraced civil servants?

Perhaps because he knows all about double-dealing. His main administrative assistant, Brett Lawson is the son of Gretna police chief  Arthur Lawson III Jr. Brett gained infamy last year for beating a tourist into a coma last year in the French Quarter and essentially beating the rap because of his connections as the editorial staff of the Times Picayune explains:

Police said Mr. Lawson hit 21-year-old Jaret Graham, of Texas, and left the scene. Mr. Lawson returned only after witnesses identified two women who were with him and one of those women called Mr. Lawson asking him to return. Mr. Lawson came back accompanied by a Gretna Police major, was not arrested and was issued a court summons instead.

Mr. Graham spent four days in a coma and was released from the hospital eight days after the altercation.

The severity of Mr. Graham’s injuries, Mr. Lawson’s decision to leave the scene and Mr. Lawson’s family connections raised questions as to whether Mr. Lawson received special treatment, something Gretna and New Orleans police officials have denied……………..

That does not quite explain how the incident escalated to the kind of altercation that left Mr. Graham in a coma, or whether Mr. Lawson’s reaction was justified. Likewise, New Orleans police have yet to explain why the two women who also had fled the scene were not required to identify themselves to the responding officer.

Things are kept all in the family in New Orleans except when Chief Lawson pulls rank and tells the commoners to go f*ck themselves as James Gill explains:

Over at the Gretna ferry meanwhile, the waiting hordes complained that Arthur Lawson III had suddenly materialized at the front of the line. Lawson’s father, who happens to be Gretna police chief, said it was all a misunderstanding; his son had just been returned to his original place in line, which he had left to help out with crowd control.

This is not the first time a Lawson boy has appeared to receive preferential treatment. Last summer Brett Lawson, after beating a man unconscious in the French Quarter, was not arrested, but merely issued a summons to appear in Municipal Court. Although French Quarter cops are not known for a reluctance to throw suspects in jail, the public was assured that it made no difference that Brett Lawson’s father was a police chief.

And this brings us back to the Jefferson Parish council and Chris Roberts who we’ll circle back to in a bit. Doing business with former CAO Tim Whitmer’s double-dealing Lagnaippe Industries has become a kiss of death for parish venders as this story from today’s Times Picayune illustrates:

Fleming Construction Co. was repairing Jefferson Parish water lines last year under a $5-million contract when it asked for more cash to finish the two-year job.

But in January, the Parish Council killed a proposed $1.25-million addition to the deal, ending its agreement with the construction firm seven months early. Interim President Steve Theriot said at the time that Fleming appeared to have a conflict of interest: the company bought insurance through Lagniappe Industries, the private brokerage owned by Tim Whitmer, the No. 2 executive in the parish who has since resigned.

That particular verbage is curious to me considering what T-P reporter Paul Rioux wrote yesterday evening while acting the part of waterboy for the pols in charge of running Jefferson Parish:

The Jefferson Parish Council canceled the contracts with Hubbard Enterprises in October. It was the first in a chain of events that led to the resignations of Whitmer and former Parish President Aaron Broussard amid a federal criminal investigation of Whitmer’s firm, which did business with at least seven parish contractors.

No evidence has surfaced of a quid pro quo between Whitmer and Hubbard. But the timing of the deals shined a spotlight on the Jefferson Parish Council’s frequent practice of extending contracts or increasing their value without seeking new bids.

So while past double-dealing with Lagnaippe on the part of Parish venders earns them the scarlet letter what of Parish employees turned politicians like Debbie Villio that received campaign cash from Whitmer and the gang? They get to hold more fund-raisers and this brings us back to Chris Roberts who counts Lagnaippe Industries as one of his political patrons as his campaign finance report illustrates:

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Also listed among the Robert’s contributors is a company whose name popped up a good bit in the scarlet letter reporting: Kass Brothers Construction. Kass is a family business on the West Bank that provided services both to the Parish and the River Birch landfill. Among the family members involved with Kass is James “Dutchie” Connick’s wife Jean. Dutchie turns up a lot in the trash biz along with Tim Coulon’s boy who is a lobbyist at Adams and Reese. With all that in mind and knowing that everyone in Jefferson Parish power circles knows everyone else lets circle back to January and this Mark Waller report where the pols of Jefferson Parish welcomed in the State Legislative Auditor with open arms:

“Many of my colleagues would agree that some of the most recent revelations have been quite disturbing,” Councilman Chris Roberts told the advisory panel about the concerns surrounding Whitmer’s private business ties to parish government entities and contractors.

“We do this with open arms,” Roberts said about the audit. “We welcome their input. We welcome their inquiries.”

If that is the case then I am certain Chris Roberts will be well pleased with this post as we’re inquiring why the heck he hasn’t resigned for taking money from Lagnaippe and Lagnaippe contributor Kass Brothers Construction. Something stinks alright as that Eau de Landfill smell permeates the Parish Council chambers.

Slabbed reports you decide.


4 thoughts on “Let’s tie a few Jefferson Parish odds and ends together as Slabbed welcomes Chris Roberts and Dutchie Connick to the party”

  1. A critique of Mr. Louis Gruntz’s, Asst. Parish Atty. preparations for tomorrow’s Council Meeting is on the forefront of what has gone wrong and what is wrong with the Jefferson Parish Attorney’s office today, the past, and possibly into the future; the Parish Council should vote affirmatively for the resolution by Mr. Roberts, item 84, on the March 3 agenda to restructure that office. Mr. Gruntz should not be a part of that future.

    Mr. Gruntz is a cog in the system, doing his “time” till retirement. First and foremost, projecting an aura of intellect and legal savvy; a midlding of demeanor and style: and the reflexive and motivating undercurrent of “go along to get along”. Always acting to protect the status quo, he is a creature of the culture that has perpetuated everything that signifies what is broken.

    Along with the consideration of reforming the Parish Attorney’s Office, the Council is scheduled to go into executive session to deliberate allegations presented by the Personnel Board that Mr. Wilkinson violated Parish Law by managing the Tim Coulon Campaign Committee in a Parish building. In fact he did, and that is not at issue. Mr. Gruntz has championed the defense of Mr. Wilkinson, his “boss”, arguing that he is not subject to the prohibition that a Parish employee not be involved political activity. Like Mr. John Combs of the Personnel Board, I am at a loss as to what Mr. Gruntz is doing injecting an adversary position to the Parish of Jefferson efforts to root out wrongdoing; this by his insistence that HE represents Mr. Wilkinson. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Gruntz is ethically challenged, which comes as no surprise, considering his background of 29 years as an Asst Parish Atty. It is a conflict with his client, Jefferson Parish, to represent Mr. Wilkinson in this instance. The fact that Mr. Gruntz either cannot comprehend that fact, or that his own arrogance refuses to accept that, is evidence of what’s wrong here.

    The Parish Attorney of Jefferson Parish is charged with representing the CITIZENS of Jefferson Parish through the office of the Parish President and the Parish Council. The Parish Attorney does not nor is it obligated to represent any individual employee accused of any violation of Parish , State, or Federal Law outside the scope of their duties. Mr. Wilkinson operating the Coulon Campaign Committee , which Mr Gruntz himself has acknowledged is contrary to state law, is not permissible and indefensible, period.

    We also have learned that the cases pertaining to Ms. Debbie Villio (? Campaign activity) and Mr. Kenneth Trahan (para-legal employment ?) have been referred to outside counsel. What ? And who do they represent ? Again Mr. Gruntz, in this decision, which will cost the JP taxpayer thousands of dollars, has again exhibited that he is ethically challenged. If Ms Villio and/or Mr. Trahan have legal exposure for their personal conduct, THEY need to retain counsel at their costs.

    Mr. Gruntz is on the front end of a broken wagon, and his hanging on to the past will leave wheel tracks on his on his back. It’s unfortunate that again the taxpayers of Jefferson Parish will have to bare the load of Mr. Gruntz’s inability to recognize who is his client, the citizens of Jefferson Parish.

    The Council has a choice: go along with Mr. Gruntz’s advice, or move on to true reform without him.

  2. Man, that old Connections series was great, used to watch it all the time.

    Question about Resolution 84, what does that mean? Does it mean the Parish Attorney’s office is about to take on civil stuff now done by firms like Chehardy, Sherman or Connick’s firm? I’m guessing not? It means the in-house work relates to clean-up relating to the mess left by the in-house people themselves, so that the in-house is really now in the out-house?

    Also, the expenditures reports for these guys are always amusing (Broussard used to have a few, like payments to his ex-wife, wife, daughter, son, familiar names, etc.), here’s one from Roberts:

    “Christopher Roberts ANN Expenditures People transporter 08/08/2009 10000.00
    Bad Ass Golf Carts Inc. 3620 S. Highland Drive Las Vegas NV 89103”

    “Christopher Roberts ANN Expenditures people transporter 08/20/2009 6800.00
    Bad Ass Golf Carts Inc. 3620 S. Highland Drive Las Vegas NV 89103”

    Maybe those are for parades? If not, that’s a *campaign expenditure?

    Hope that got him a lot of votes. But man those guys have a damn good time on their campaign funds.

    One thing that turns up once or twice for Broussard & Roberts is the name Christy Cannela/Cannella, has to be the wife or daughter of Judge Cannella. Small change in these proceedings though.

    By the way, word is Broussard was seen out having lunch with Judge George Giacobbe recently. He’s out and about.

  3. We’ve been told item #84 passed unanimously. We’ve also been told that Interim Parish Attorney Peggy Barton fired assistant Parish Attorney Steve Mortillaro.


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