To a magical time back in 2001 when a court case involving then State Senator Jon Johnson had wound its way to the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeals:
On 13 May 1998, the trial court dismissed for failure to state a cause of action the petition1 for preliminary and permanent injunction filed by Dwayne Smith, Wilson Morton, et al against John D. Johnson, Dianne Dumas, et al, arising out of a dispute as to the identity of the board of directors of the Ninth Ward Housing Development Corporation (NWHDC). The trial court noted in its reasons for judgment that petitioners’ proper remedy was a writ of quo warranto or of mandamus. There is no indication that this judgment was appealed.
NWHDC and two of its purported officers and directors, Smith and Morton, on 7 July 1998 filed a petition for writ of quo warranto by ordinary proceedings, bearing # 98-11785 on the docket of Civil District Court for Orleans Parish. NWHDC, Smith and Morton contend that Smith and Morton are the only duly elected directors of NWHDC and seek a declaration that the following have no legal right to the directorships nor offices in NWHDC claimed by them: Jon D. Johnson, Dianne Dumas, James Johnson, Richard Caiton, Claude Mitchell, Lester Mornay and Charles LePage. The record does not contain a request for or return of service on any of the defendants.
On 24 August 1998, Caiton, individually and as an officer and director of NWHDC filed a petition for writ of quo warranto against Smith and Morton, seeking a declaration that Smith and Morton have no legal rights to the offices they claim in NWHDC. This case bears # 98-14858 on the docket of Civil District Court for Orleans parish. Caiton requested service on Smith and Morton through Smith, as counsel of record in # 98-11785. A Sheriffs return in the record shows personal service on Smith on 16 September 1998.
Although there is no evidence that he or any of his co-defendants were served, Caiton answered the petition in # 98-11785 on 25 August 1998. On 27 August 1998, Caiton filed a motion and order for security for costs. At some time between August and 15 October 1998, the two cases were consolidated. Smith and Morton obtained a continuance of a hearing set in the consolidated cases. The trial court heard testimony on 10, 12, 17 and 18 November 1998 and rendered judgment in favor of Smith and Morton on 23 December 1998.
Indeed Smith won at the CDC and one can only imagine the alphabet soup of competing political interest at play there. My non legal read is it appears there was fight as to who got to run Johnson’s conprofit and I picture this case as a prime example of the “ethical questions” Johnson faced back during the turn of the millenium cited in the media coverage surrounding his recent guilty plea.
You have to be hard core to slog through the entire pleading so I’ll shortcut the outcome of Johnson’s appeal as he won:
From that judgment, Caiton and NWHDC appeal. We sever the cases, reverse the judgment in # 98-14858 and remand # 98-11785.
The case summary though is worth the slog as there were plenty of partial board minutes with nothing definitive submitted as evidence. You get the feeling Johnson was running the whole deal though he appears to have purposely not listed himself anywhere and his soon to be former CPA Asif Gafur is even mentioned. The case was funny because no one seems to remember anything except a few of the secretaries.
Speaking of Gafur, it looks like when he was not helping Jon Johnson with his conprofit, the Ninth Ward Housing Development Corp, he was auditing others as I was sent this link by a reader to a portion of the 1997 audit of the Southern Community Development Corporation thus the circle remains unbroken.
Finally speaking of this general topic and reader links, this one to the Louisiana Secretary of State’s database on the New Orleans Housing Rehabilitation and Restoration Corporation shows many a local pol made their pet nonprofit a family affair.