Times Picayune rejoins the Jefferson Parish conversation – reports 400 companies asked about ties to Whitmer

Richard Rainey steps up for the Times Picayune with 400 companies are asked about ties to Tim Whitmer.

The Jefferson Parish Council has mailed 404 letters — one to every company making money on a parish contract — in a new effort to map the extent of former chief administrator Tim Whitmer’s private insurance business with the government and its vendors…

The effort has already coaxed one more parish contractor to disclose its arrangement with Lagniappe Industries, the agency Whitmer owns with his wife, Dawn, Deputy Parish Attorney Louis Gruntz said. He said Beta Testing and Inspection, a construction inspection firm, confirmed it did business with Lagniappe, making it the eighth parish contractor known to be connected to Whitmer or his associates. Seven companies were previously identified by the news media or parish officials.

Lagniappe lies at the center of the continuing controversy that has spawned a federal criminal investigation and led to the resignations of Broussard, Whitmer and parish attorney Tom Wilkinson

Parish officials and federal authorities began their investigations after The Times-Picayune reported in November that Lagniappe was making commissions off insurance policies sold to employees at West Jefferson Medical Center, the publicly owned hospital in Marrero.

The council’s letters to all contractors expand on an initial investigation by the parish attorney’s office. Until now, Gruntz said, parish investigators had sent letters only to those companies known to have connections to Whitmer’s insurance business. Among them: Kass Brothers Inc., Fleming Construction Co., Sizeler Thompson Brown Architects, Veolia Transportation, All South Consulting Engineers, Hubbard Enterprises and River Birch Inc.

The new letters ask each company to disclose the timing and scope of any arrangement the company has with the Whitmers, former Parish President Tim Coulon and his wife, Mary, or the late Maurice “Hippo” Katz and his wife, Judy. All six were insurance agents with ties to Lagniappe or THT Group, the trade name of a partnership among Coulon, Whitmer and Katz.

Each letter gives contractors — including The Times-Picayune, which holds the parish’s official journal contract — 10 days to respond. Gruntz said he didn’t have a total number of replies so far, but he said they are coming in steadily. Alan Gandolfi, the council’s research and budget analysis director, said 13 letters have been returned with improper addresses.

The letters preempt the April effective date of a new parish law requiring all contractors to disclose all insurance agents, companies and affiliates when they apply for public work.

Gruntz said parish officials can’t cancel existing contracts with companies that are found to be doing business with Lagniappe. However, state laws do prevent similar conflicts of interest, so such cases will be sent to state investigators, he said…

Be sure to follow the link and read the rest of the story.

5 thoughts on “Times Picayune rejoins the Jefferson Parish conversation – reports 400 companies asked about ties to Whitmer”

  1. Conversation would imply that the TP had information that would be something other than regurgitated old news. Councilman Roberts moved over 2 months ago to do the very same thing. So after such a long absence of reporting anything about anything of the expanding Federal investigations is this what we get ?

    This article is nothing more than a public relations ploy by the Times-Picayune on behalf of their client the political establishment of Jefferson Parish. I still believe Mr. Rainey has more talent as an investigative reporter than as copy boy for his bosses and he should consider preserving his reputation by moving on.

    Ms. Lee-Sheng, who’s silence up to this date has been deafening, tells us “we need to know the lay of the land” as it relates to Lagniappe Ins. et al doing business with Parish contractors. Well Ms. Lee-Sheng in case you didn’t know or forgot or didn’t want to mention it, your $105,000+ dollar a year assistant, Mr. Henyoub, incorporated Lagniappe ! Mr. Henyoub’s father is an officer of Coastline Construction Services who has flood insurance with Mr. Whitmer’s company. And least we forget, Mr. Henyoub is in the law offices of former Parish Attorney, Mr. Tom Wilkinson. How does that lay ?

    Mr. Louis Gruntz , 1st Asst. Parish Atty of Obfuscation, now remembers that he has a responsibility to continue investigating Mr. Whitmer’s conduct as set forth by a Council resolution some time ago. At the same time he tells us the Parish can’t do anything anyway. Enough said, thank you Mr. Gruntz.

    Mr. Alan Gandolfi, being paid $125,00+ as Research & Budget Director for the Council, fails to tell us the name of the 13 Companies whose letters sent by the Parish were returned. Someone has previously asked whether the checks sent to these same Companies were ever returned. Well Mr. Gandolfi, have they ? And by the way Mr. Gandolfi do your job, update and make current the Directory of Parish Boards and Commissions so that we the public can rely on our public information that we pay for.

    PS: Mr. Gruntz you seem to have forgot to add “Tim Whitmer and Associates” as one of the insurance entities Mr. Whitmer used prior to Lagniappe or THT. And you might want to disclose the name of the insurance agency Tim Whitmer and Associates was producing business for. Maybe you could ask Ms. Lee-Cheng, she’s a former forensic FBI accountant.

  2. Nowdy , he is pretty amazing isn’t he. And that with no Rebel Yell I understand!
    As for Alan Gandolfi assisting with investigation: he was an Assistant Parish Attorney under Wilkinson. He was one of three people on the Technical Evaluation Committee that ranked River Birch over the only other submitter Concrete Busters ( the other 2 were Wilkinson and David Fos). He has been going along to get his paycheck and retirement for over 20 years. And we are to believe he is 1. investigating the corruption that took place the entire time he was on duty and 2. not trying to save his own a___ by diverting attention from the River Birch controversy ( past and oh so present)?
    Louis Gruntz: Mr psuedo-Intellectual whose joy is hiding laws in legislation by mis- directing the eye while he slips the anti- transparency language into an innocuos enough bill. Beware Louisiana Legislators because Gruntz is up to his old tricks including getting non- Jefferson Parish legislators to introduce his bills so it doesn’t look like it is coming from JP. And then of course JP legislators return the favor(s). If I was in Baton Rouge this session I would track Gruntz’s whereabouts. Oh that’s right I WILL be there. See ya there Louie old boy. Meanwhile keep beating those dead horses (all 404 of them) and getting your old neighbor ‘Nancy’ Drew Broach to sugarcoat reports about you.
    These guys were left in place because they would do whatever they were told to do and are not smart enough to cause any trouble by figuring out they were, relatively speaking, not getting their fair share of the loot.

  3. Unslabbed,

    The Council Budget and Research Department of which you speak is a joke. I have often wondered what their true function is within the structure of Parish government. I don’t think they produce very much and I have never seen any studies, findings or reports published by that agency. The name, “Research and Budget” implies much but I have yet to see anything that would suggest that this department does any type of research and financial analysis for the parish. My best bet is that this is just another haven for partonage allowing Jefferson politicians to place friends and family in high paying jobs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *