I’ve had one of those famous Slabbed moments of serendipity where events have connected thus I feel compelled to write a post on the topic especially when news stories which I’ve been holding close marry well with seemingly unrelated events and involve the Slabbed Nation’s Jefferson Parish Branch.
Let’s do this chronologically and go back to last month to begin with our post on the MDOT Port Connector Road and the related eminent domain issues as it involved the Ward family landholdings along I-10 in Gulfport:
The environmental agreement MDOT reached with federal agencies would forever end proposals for commercial development just south of I-10 between U.S. 49 and Canal Road. The agreement also would allow MDOT to go forward with construction of a state port connector road from I-10 to U.S. 90, a route crucial to the port’s plans for expansion.The road would destroy 162 acres of wetlands. In exchange, MDOT plans to buy and place 1,638 acres in perpetual conservation easements. The state Department of Marine Resources would own the land, but about 447 acres on both sides of Turkey Creek would be managed by a nonprofit, the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain.
Enter Mayor Schloegel who is concerned over the impact to the city’s tax rolls:
Schloegel said the Ward family, who owns about 1,000 acres of the land, had plans to open Creosote Road south of I-10 from Prime Outlets west to Canal Road.
“It’s my understanding that a good bit of this area is in a wetlands zone, but also that there is approximately 400 acres that is high and dry,” the mayor said….
As our Jefferson Parish friends well know the Ward family is used to getting what it wants. In Louisiana they own (or at least rent) every NOLA area pol down to Mr Mayor Elect himself so it would naturally follow they would aggressively try to protect their investment and vision for the wetlands in Turkey Creek area but I’ll admit to being a bit surprised when less than a week later Anita followed up with another story, this one originating from the Sun Herald building itself as Mayor Schloegel brought a new Ward into the picture, Jerard “Baby Butch” Ward to plead his daddy’s case and it is there we stop next:
An owner of about 1,100 acres south of Interstate 10 says he is the victim of a “federal land grab.”
The property owned by Jerard Ward and his family is included in 1,638 acres the state has agreed to buy at the federal government’s behest so a five-mile expressway can be built to connect the state port with Interstate 10. The acreage will be perpetually preserved in exchange for 162 acres of wetlands sacrificed to the road.
Mayor George Schloegel is alarmed that so much land will be wiped off the tax rolls when he believes other options are available to protect the environment. He brought Jerard Ward and his attorney to lay out their case for the Sun Herald on Monday. They referred to a map that shows the 1,638-acre conservation easement.
What followed was both rich and shameless as Baby Butch breaks out the violin and plays the victim:
“We believe that EPA is the entity behind the creation of that map,” Ward family attorney Paul J. Mayronne said. “We’ve had to scratch and claw to get as much information as we can to find out what in the world is going on that would lead to a private property owner waking up and being told, ‘Guess what, you can’t have that property anymore.’
“It’s not about developing the property. It’s about being able to own the property. It goes back to the core foundations of the Constitution and private property rights.”
Anita’s story goes on to detail the process which lead to the massive conservation easement and is well worth the read. I’ll be interested to see if the City joins the Wards in court, paying legal fees helping a private out-of-state landowner while simultaneously laying off city employees, especially given the odoriferous nature of their business dealings in Jefferson Parish including Pappa Butch’s Landfill which is currently front and center in the ongoing Federal political corruption investigation in Jefferson Parish.
Mayor Schloegel is not the kind of man who needs my advice on this given what he has accomplished in life but the Ward’s have a propensity to show up next to crooked politicians on a regular basis back on their home turf in Louisiana and whether it is fair or not people are judged by those whom they associate. Such is the case of former Gretna City Council member Jonathan Bolar, a crook and political hack currently on trial before US District Court Judge Lance Africk for shaking down business people attempting to perform routine business with the City of Gretna as the Times Picayune’s Paul Purpura explains in his afternoon trial update:
The last defense witness in the federal case against former Gretna City Councilman Jonathan Bolar said she lied when she testified to a U.S. grand jury in 2008.
That admission prompted U.S. District Judge Lance Africk to recess the proceedings and to order the federal public defender’s office to consult with the witness, Adonis Favorite.
When the trial resumed after the recess, Favorite again testified that she had lied to the grand jury and that Bolar had told her to lie to the panel.
We’re getting to the good part because it wasn’t just any ol’ lie:
On the witness stand this afternoon, Favorite buttressed the prosecution’s case against Bolar by saying she heard Bolar tell a contractor, Willie Harris, that he needed Harris to pay him $2,500 to get a zoning variance approved by the council for a property Harris was working on.
Harris and Favorite are cousins, and the property at 1308 Romaine St. is owned by Favorite’s sister.
Favorite testified that she heard Bolar tell Harris, “there are five guys on the board that need to be paid in order for this variance to be passed,” referring to the five members of the city council.
This apparently contradicted testimony she gave to a federal grand jury. When questioned about that discrepancy, she answered, “I lied then. When I came before the grand jury, I lied.”
Now what does this have to do with Butch Ward? Simple, Butch and Bolar were shit-house land partners:
Bolar explained that the transaction between him and the Franklin Street Church of Christ happened in August 2008. Bolar said that a year earlier he sold the lot at 400 Franklin St. to former Jefferson Parish Councilman Thomas “Butch” Ward’s company, Fairfield Properties LLC, in order to raise money for a campaign for the Louisiana Senate.
“He more or less was just holding it for me,” Bolar said of Ward.
Bolar signed a purchase agreement with the church, which gave him $3,750 in earnest money that Bolar deposited. Judge Lance Africk asked Bolar if he attempted to give the earnest money to Ward, who owned the property, and Bolar said he never did.
One naturally wonders if a deed was contemporaneously filed for the transaction between Bolar and Ward.
One thing that struck me in Paul’s story from yesterday on the trial was Pappa Butch’s testimony in the trial so we need to circle back to that report in the interest of fairness to Pappa Butch:
Former Jefferson Parish Councilman Thomas “Butch” Ward, who was a witness for prosecutors Tuesday, was recalled Wednesday as a defense witness to “clarify” his previous testimony, Floyd said. But just as Ward began his testimony, the attorneys huddled privately with Africk at the bench. Africk then released Ward, saying his testimony from Tuesday was sufficient.
“I drove all the way from Gulfport,” Ward barked while walking out of the courtroom. Africk apologized.
It takes a certain amount of sack to “bark” at a Federal judge and garner an apology. Based on Mayor Schloegel taking Baby Butch down to the paper I hate to say it but I now wonder if Pappa Butch wasn’t in Gulfport “barking” at our Mayor.
Speaking for the Slabbed Nation’s Mississippi branch, I don’t think we need the type of money the Ward family brings to the community.
I don’t we’ve heard the last of this here on Slabbed or in the local media. Stay tuned.