Lagniappe – “a word worth traveling to New Orleans to get,” according to Mark Twain – wasn’t in my vocabulary until college friends from Louisiana introduced me to the word and the custom. Perhaps that’s why the irony of Lagniappe Industries as the name of former Jefferson Parish executive Tim Whitmer’s insurance company escaped me until Sop tossed me Jefferson Parish contractor linked to Tim Whitmer firm on his way out the door.
Though the word is included in English dictionaries it is used primarily in the region influenced by New Orleans…It has a restricted meaning, but I think the people spread it out a little when they choose. It is the equivalent of the thirteenth roll in a “baker’s dozen.” It is something thrown in, gratis, for good measure. The custom originated in the Spanish quarter of the city. When a child or a servant buys something in a shop — or even the mayor or the governor, for aught I know — he finishes the operation by saying — “Give me something for lagniappe.” The shopman always responds…
Although I was a slow to catch the significance, I suspect any contractor Whitmer handed a Lagniappe Industries business card caught on immediately – solicitation by double entendre.
All South Consulting Engineers, a Jefferson Parish contractor, also had private insurance business with Tim Whitmer, the parish’s former top executive, Whitmer has confirmed.
Documents, including a 2007 e-mail from Whitmer to All South and a 2008 partial fax from All South President Tim Bonura to Whitmer, indicate that a relationship existed between the consulting company and Whitmer’s insurance work…
An e-mail — dated Oct. 31, 2007, and sent from Whitmer to an All South e-mail address — referenced the renewal of a workers’ compensation insurance policy from Nov. 1, 2007, to Nov. 1, 2008. Whitmer signed the e-mail as an agent for Lagniappe, which he co-owns with his wife, Dawn. Bonura was copied on the exchange.
Also, a partial fax from Bonura to Whitmer on March 25, 2008, and entitled “insurance requirements” described the “minimum limits of insurance” on policies for commercial general liability, automobile liability and workers’ compensation and employer’s liability.
The Times-Picayune obtained only one page of the seven mentioned in the fax.
Frankly, a lot of people go into public service because the increased visibility is good for business. Whitmer simply appears to have gone too far.
All South is the seventh parish contract to be linked to Whitmer, his insurance agency, Lagniappe Industries, or his business associates. While acting as the No. 2 executive in one of Louisiana’s largest parishes, Whitmer was drumming up insurance business among parish contractors and public agencies, evidence shows.
The [Parish] council awarded All South at least nine contracts or contract extensions in 2009, totaling at least $1.27 million, parish records show. All South’s projects range from building a new waste transfer station on Lapalco Boulevard to evaluating Grand Isle’s water system to repairing drainage systems after Hurricane Gustav in 2008, documents show.
Bonura said in his Feb. 12 e-mail that All South, which began working for Jefferson Parish in November 2005, paid half that total amount, $661,870, to “sub-consultants.” He did not elaborate.
Bonura should expect others to begin elaborating about his “sub-consultant” contracts, particularly if they were lagniappe. The only question is who will spit out that 13th roll and start talking.