It all started innocently enough with an email to Treasurre Lynn Fitch by Port Policy Wonk Dan Norfleet:
Good Morning Treasurer Fitch:
Edison Chouest Offshore learned to create subsidiaries to be responsible for repaying the money when the jobs do not materialize. Failing to do this in Galveston cost the company $9 Million and could have cost tens of millions of dollars more: Louisiana offshore firm owes Port of Galveston $9 million. Anything built in Mississippi will not be an Edison Chouest project, but will be “LaShip” or “TopShip,” or “MyShip”—a newly formed corporation with no track record and virtually no chance of making good on its promises but trading on the past record of Edison Chouest. As usual, the MDA is being played. This is just another making-energy-out-of-mud project that will put Mississippi further into the economic hole.
Never one to waste a good link I clicked the link in Dan’s email and ended up liking the story so much that, despite it being several years old, Slabbed put it out on Twitter.1 It was recognized as a quality link in short order by Lee Zurik’s investigative assistant Tom Wright.
Carlos Marcello was a Mafia boss who presented himself as a tomato salesman. He lived in Metairie and died in 1993.
Lee was Jefferson’s sheriff from 1980 to 2007. But he was the parish attorney when he dined at Marcello’s Grand Isle camp July 7, 1979, and spent the night there. That pre-dates digital journalism, but you can read this States-Item story about their evening. (Hat tip to Danny Gamble, our chief librarian, for the clip.)
Crony capitalism is another story lest we forget disgraced former Jefferson Parish Attorney turned self admitted felon Tom Wilkinson’s sister Nancy Cassagne got the top management job at West Jeff despite not possessing the qualifications for the low-mid 6 figure position. It should come as no surprise that Cahill would cite Children’s Hospital susceptibility to political persuasion as the reason he favors Children’s over HCA despite the fact HCA is offering the taxpayers a better deal financially.
The deal Elton LaGasse cut to support Children’s over HCA is what needs examination here folks. Follow the money to the insiders enriching themselves at the expense of the public and the answer becomes clear. Stay tuned.
Citizens for Good Government is extremely disturbed about the secretive way in which our Jefferson Parish Council has asked our Louisiana legislative delegation to change the STATE LAW that requires a vote of the people in order for our public hospitals to be sold or leased.
It is alarming that the council passed a resolution at the last council meeting without even letting citizens know what they were attempting to do. The resolution, which was passed without discussion, resolved that “The Jefferson Parish Louisiana State legislative delegation and the entire legislature of the State of Louisiana amend, modify and/or revise La. R.S. 46:1064.2.” This resolution did not elaborate on the purpose of this revised statute, nor did it indicate exactly how the council wanted our legislature to change it.
However, R.S. 46:1064.2(C), which applies only to Jefferson Parish, is very explicit, and it states:
“The hospital service district shall sell or lease the hospital ONLY if the proposed sale or lease is approved by a majority of the qualified electors of the hospital service district voting on the proposition at an election held for that purpose and conducted in accordance with the Louisiana Election Code.”
It is at this point that I feel compelled to take the Jefferson Parish legislative delegation for a trip down memory lane to the last time the Parish council wanted a law changed that attracted the attention of good government activists across the parish. What makes the similarity in my mind between the stripping of a civil right from the populace in removing the provision for a public vote on the sale/lease/management of the two public hospitals and the “tweaking” of the public records statute on the behalf of TheRiot is both involved major losses of public transparency. Of course it was the behind the scenes deal making that brought the taxpayers both the Performing Arts Center and River Birch Landfill debacles so you’d think the gang on the 10th floor of Yenni along with the Parish Council would have at least had the sense to consider all the ramifications here. Instead I sense the politics of self enrichment are at play, likely with a heavy dose of crony capitalism on top.
In the Spring of 2010 TheRiot asked Louisiana State Senator Danny Martiny to change the Louisiana Public Records law drawing the ire of good government activists in Jefferson Parish. Slabbed made an editorial decision to become involved and I subsequently welcomed Senator Martiny to the legendary Warren Suite at the Do Slabb Inn. Within a few days Martiny appeared on Fox 8 cryin’ that people thought he was some kind of crook. The Parish Council ran for the hills pulling the rug out from under Martiny and this in turned caused me to opine Senator Martiny was a stooge. Now Slabbed has since gone easy on Senator Martiny as he really is not the devil reincarnate as he was the guy that pushed the Louisiana version of the SPEECH Act through the legislature so we obviously share some common ground.
The Parish council met last week in secret with hospital officials and others. Out of that meeting came the request to change LA R.S. 46:1064.2 which would exempt the hospital from the public vote provisions in that law.
Both hospital boards are stacked with political insiders and are notorious troughs where crony capitalism, double dealing and self enrichment are the rule of the day.
The request to change the law was done with “no public discussion, and no dissenting vote on the council.”
Potential public opposition was cited by Sheriff Noodles Norman as the reason for stripping this civil liberty from the taxpaying public. Sheriff Noodles, when he is not palling around with washed up actors like Steven Seagal or arresting criminals is the Chairman of the East Jefferson Medical Center Board of Directors.
Chris Robert$, Cynthia Lee $heng, Elton LaGa$$e are all responsible for the River Birch debacle and their judgment is not to be tru$ted.
“The six council members knew nothing of the agreement until after the grant was received,” said city attorney W. Fred Hornsby III. The council could have chosen not to pay Maxwell-Walker, he said, but agreed to give the firm the standard 6 percent finder’s fee of $180,000 for the grant.
The payment to Maxwell-Walker was not discussed in an open council meeting, only in executive session, Janus said.
Rather than putting a resolution for payment on the budget, it was added to the Dec. 20, 2011, docket of claims with the city’s other bills.
It appears the Sun Herald has all hands on deck as 4 of their reporters checked in yesterday with two stories, the first linked above by Anita Lee, Karen Nelson and Paul Hampton which detailed how the DMR engaged in bid rigging via split purchase fraud steering work to Barber and his wifey. We also back the date up on the OIG involvement to mid July, 2012 which is significant as it implies the Interior Department was looking at DMR since at least May, 2012 based upon my professional experience, perhaps even earlier.
There is a larger story here in the complete lack of state oversight and self accountability, which at first blush is ironic as Bryant started out in state-wide politics as State Auditor. Once upon a time the State Auditor’s Office actually had a fair amount of auditors in several different divisions from Higher Education to local school districts. The auditing these folks did was very good though I’ll grant they tended to over-audit. Through time the capacity to conduct audits at the OSA has diminished to the extent where I think everything is now contracted out to private firms. The audit quality is very uneven.
I mention this because the type of fraud revealed by the Sun Herald yesterday is fairly easily caught in a well designed audit but I think it also illustrates the environment that Walker perceived he was operating to so blatantly split purchases to steer work. We also now have a window on how County Government operated because the first set of preliminary findings included County procurements including this blurb on the Hancock County Board of Supervisors: Continue reading “DMR Scandal day 53: The bucks are beginning to stop.”
Like the systemic political corruption in Jefferson Parish, the unfolding scandal at the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is like a cheap sweater in that one loose thread has been pulled and now the whole thing is unraveling. As Karen Nelson at the Sun Herald has reported on each new out house transaction, I sense a growing public outrage, especially now that a not for profit organization with a previously sterling reputation has emerged as a co-conspirator to what strongly appears to be illegal acts involving DMR Director Bill Walker and his son Scott. Tina Shumate, the person at DMR in charge of the Coastal Impact Assistance Program is also neck deep in the cesspool doing real estate deals with her parents with public money and it is with Tina’s parents brother that we’ll start as she is no ordinary legacy political hack stinking up state government as her daddy brother Curt Hebert is an expert in wallowing in the crony capitalism cesspool dating to his disastrous run as head of the US Federal Energy Regulatory Agency, which in reality regulated nothing expect the lining of their own pockets:
Hebert, a former Mississippi utility regulator who is often regarded as a protégé of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), was named chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by President George W. Bush in January 2001. A Republican, Hebert was first nominated to FERC in 1997 by former President Bill Clinton. During Hebert’s tenure, FERC has been criticized for being too laissez faire, and Hebert’s critics accuse him of being a free market ideologue.
Indeed it was under Hebert’s watch that ENRON price gouged west coast power consumers by manipulating power supplies, causing rolling blackouts and other disruptions that allowed ENRON to profit mightily from selling electricity into the contrived power shortage. Hebert is an expert in Mississippi style crony capitalism and it appears his daughter sister well learned at his side how to slop at the trough.
What I am gonna do today is link the Sun Herald reporting for those that want to catch up and call bull on DMR Director Bill Walker’s assertion the OIG showing up at his office late last Summer is somehow routine. A state agency seeing someone from the State Auditors Office is routine though it appears the Auditor’s office, as it concerns DMR corruption, has been asleep at the switch for many years and in my opinion their Johnny-come-lately appearance on the DMR scene is to ascertain the extent of the scandal so it can be contained as I have no faith Governor Phil Bryant wants to see this scandal exposed since it involves so many of his supporters.
I was there on business just a few weeks ago and actually know a few of the inhabitants. I mention this because the Sun Herald has a connection or two there as well as Donna Harris and photojournalist John Fitzhugh showed up yesterday at Bolton while a few folks from the investigative division of the State Auditor’s office were holed up in DMR executive director Bill Walker’s office going through his files and computer hard disks.
Let’s be clear, the Investigators with the OSA are not the FBI and the OSA typically pursues civil rather than criminal remedies. That said I do not think they’ll have to look very hard to figure out what DMR is about in its new role as Santa to the politically connected. To the extent Walker is highly connected in statewide GOP circles, the fact this investigation was green lit by the powers that be is telling. Stay tuned.