I’d happily report that my absence meant I’ve been up to something but such is not the case over the last few days as I took a break. This does not mean I don’t have some dynamite things in store for the Slabbed Nation this week but today we do a bit of catching up.
First up is the taxpayer funded money pit also known as the Performing Arts Center. Yesterday the T-P editorial board opined the project should be completed ASAP now that the state’s taxpayers are on the hook for another $9.9MM as the project’s costs has almost doubled since ground broke on the project years ago. Adding to the confusion is yesterday afternoon Bob Ross filed a post titled Affidavit clears up confusion on change order for Performing Arts Center in Metairie that frankly added to my confusion about change order #5 to the point where I gotta call bullshit. A close read of said Legislative auditor’s report on the change order clearly indicates there was a management override involved in that particular change order, management being for CAO Tim Whitmer and current councilman at large Elton LaGasse.
To the extent Whitmer has copped a plea in the wide ranging JP Corruption investigation and reportedly knows where all the “bones are buried”, one would naturally assume he has been questioned closely about his knowledge about whether Councilman LaGasse took a kickback to ram rod that particular change order through, reportedly with no documentation, that included a massive delay claim. I want to make clear this is only an allegation but given what has surfaced about Jiff Hingle and the new Plaquemines Parish Jail such is a fair question, especially as the taxpaying public tries to figure out how a $28MM project has morphed into a $52MM boondoggle. I’ll have more on change order 5 ASAP because it is clear Mr Ross has lots of catching up to do.
Next up is the child molestation case and alleged official cover up involving Jerry “Cap’n Jay” Dantin as Paul Purpura filed a comprehensive update yesterday as justice for the little boy Dantin victimized has again been delayed, this time by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Dantin’s long time friend, Grand Isle Police Chief Euris Dubois is alleged to have intentionally botched the investigation which only adds to the cesspool that is this saga as Mayor David Carmadelle is also heavily involved. Continue reading “Clear as mud: JPAC gets line of credit, an affidavit and a PR push. Cap’n Jay gets a reprieve while Chief Euris DuBois’ neighbor gets shot and burned out (Updated)”
New scrutiny for Jefferson Performing Arts Center ~ Rich Rainey 7/11/12
Slabbed does a compare and contrast on Jefferson Parish Performing Arts Center change orders: Elton Lagasse has some ‘splaining to do. ~ Doug Handshoe 7/16/12
Now the latest:
Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Jefferson, on Thursday temporarily blocked the use of almost $10 million in lines of credit to build the Jefferson Performing Arts Center in Metairie, saying he wants parish officials to explain why the project has ballooned in cost. Henry asked the state Bond Commission, which holds sway over credit for hundreds of state-financed projects, to delay the reauthorization of last year’s $10 million for one month.
Parish Council member Chris Roberts said he supported Henry’s actions. Roberts said he doesn’t think the parish administration has officially settled an issue that was raised in a scathing report by the legislative auditor’s office last year on the cost overruns at the long-delayed arts center. One change order of $5.6 million was paid even though Reda Youssef, capital projects director for the parish, said he could not certify more than $2.8 million.
Let’s circle back to my post of the 16th:
I figure if I am aware of the duplicity then Mini-Me must be as well thus putting Youssef to the question in a bit over a week at the council meeting in Grand Isle. I bet the council would be happy to see Youssef refute what he told the legislative auditors and he just may since he made up some of what he told them in an effort to shift blame to people like Bolotte. I see this as impossible situation….
And then this snippet from today’s T-P story linked above: Continue reading “HUGE: “Jefferson Performing Arts Center’s $10 million (line of) credit suspended””
Folks this post sets the record for time spent in drafts and it was this latest Rich Rainey installment from the Jefferson Parish Council cesspool on the topic of JPAC and Parish Capital Projects Director Reda Youssef that dictated I find a way to adequately explain the construction disaster that has squandered millions in state tax money. Adequately explain? By now everyone knows JPAC is money pit but with all the finger-pointing it is hard (but not impossible) to identify those most responsible. The last time I linked the State Legislative Audit Advisory Council meeting on the topic I came away feeling the Legislators were lost too. Hopefully this post changes that. Now the disclaimers and disclosures.
I’ve interviewed 1 person with first hand knowledge of the project, whom I’ve granted anonymity. I also obtained some fantastic research from the Citizens for Good Government, the people who are the most responsible for having the Legislative Auditor take a peek at the project. I’m also relying heavily on my own professional expertise on this topic and yes Virginia on this topic I would qualify in a courtroom as an “expert” for I am. Finally my original idea was to compare the beat reporting by the Times Picayune that covered the various change orders with the Legislative Auditor’s report on the project but the T-P reporting does not show in Google for the most part, which is odd considering how Newhouse Management are evidently SEO freakazoids but it is what it is. That said the research I obtained from the M&M sisters compensates for this somewhat. So with the fine print filled in let’s circle back to Rich Rainey’s piece from last week:
The Legislature has agreed to shovel $2.6 million more into construction of the Jefferson Performing Arts Center, already considered by many to be a $44.7 million money pit. But Parish Councilman Chris Roberts said he is still looking for answers about an earlier payment that attracted the ire of state fiscal watchdogs.
Roberts is demanding that Reda Youssef, the parish’s capital projects director, explain why he balked at approving a $5.6 million payment in 2009 to the project’s general contractor. “Everyone is dealing with it like it’s plutonium, and no one is addressing the matter,” Roberts said. “And it’s not like it’s going to go away.”
Mini-me is correct this is not going away and when I saw the story my initial reaction was Reda Youssef was headed for the chop shop. I realized that after reading this:
But Parish President John Young countered Wednesday that the questions had already been asked and answered. And Youssef said he approved only half the request because the rest dealt with charges for delays, an area of project management beyond his scope.
I disagree with Parish President Young that these questions have been answered, at least with a good answer. To hone in on duplicity here we need to check in with the Legislative Auditor’s report on Change Order 5, which is the heart of this matter: Continue reading “Slabbed does a compare and contrast on Jefferson Parish Performing Arts Center change orders: Elton Lagasse has some ‘splaining to do.”
In our coverage of Jefferson Parish Government we’ve run across the name of former Jefferson Parish CFO Gwen Bolotte a few times, normally with me expressing the opinion she needed to be fired for not doing her job as Parish Finance Director. I termed her a doormat in fact and that is a good description of her job performance in both the Performing Arts fiasco and the Parish’s ham handed dealings with Waste Management in trying to cancel the contract with them so that the Parish’s garbage could be hauled to the River Birch Landfill at considerably more costs to parish residents. I mention this because Bob Ross has a curious story in today’s Times Picayune that allows John Young and Chris Roberts to capitalize on Bolotte’s departure for purely self-serving public relations purposes. Roberts using this issue is particularly sickening given he employes the Master of Disaster Deano Bonano as a council aid at a nice 6 figure salary despite Bonano deserving the same fate as Bolotte. Instead Roberts recycled him from John Young’s chop shop. First lets visit with Ross and his story for the Sunday Picayune:
Bolotte’s decision is more troubling, Roberts said, given her position as chief financial officer in Parish President John Young’s administration.
“Gwen is a CPA. She has a fiduciary duty to hold her ground in certain situations. I would expect our CFO — and I’ve told this to John already — that if she’s put in a compromising position that she knows may or may not be in the best interest of the parish, that she make a decision to stand up and say: ‘We have questions about this and I’m not comfortable, and we need further documentation.'”
Turning a “blind eye” to Whitmer’s order, as Roberts described Bolotte’s reaction, was not in Jefferson’s best interests. “That’s a real problem,” he said. “How many time have you heard her say over the years, ‘I was instructed to do that by my superiors.'”
Young generally agreed with Roberts’ assessment.
“Hindsight is 20-20, but if she had questions, she shouldn’t have processed the check,” he said recently, before Bolotte announced her retirement. “I can tell you this: We made sure Gwen knows that nothing will be paid without proper documentation. That will not happen again. Also, nothing will be paid without accounting doing the proper checks and balances.”
Both men act as if there was not an existing policy to never pay expenses without documentation in Jefferson Parish and of course there was and is such a policy. Continue reading “The Times Picayune tackles a topic that has appeared here many times: A why Gwen Bollotte should have been fired years ago update.”