Development consultant Greg Gachassin’s potential ethics dilemma won’t end with The Independent Weekly’s April 20 cover story, “How Gachassin Games the System.” And it shouldn’t.
The low-income housing fiasco that has been dogging Lafayette since last summer and led to federal investigations of the Lafayette Housing Authority also involves some very well-connected local professionals. At least one of them, Gachassin, appears to have violated the state's Code of Governmental Ethics.
The Louisiana Board of Ethics is now compelled to take the matter up, because on May 2 state Rep. Rickey Hardy, who helped blow the whistle on the LHA's troubles, lodged a formal complaint. “It would seem as if Mr. Gachassin has violated the ethics laws of the State of Louisiana while serving as chairman and member of the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority... [and] appears to have been in ethics violation even after his resignation from the [LPTFA],” Hardy wrote to the state's top ethics administrator, Kathleen Allen.
The LPTFA is a trust organized under the laws of the state that holds millions for the benefit of Lafayette Consolidated Government. In his letter, Hardy is referencing this newspaper’s story about how Gachassin, while on LPTFA's board, orchestrated low-income housing deals in north Lafayette that involved both LPTFA funding and federal low-income housing tax credits. He then signed on as a consultant for two of them, Villa Gardens and Cypress Trails, while still on the board or within weeks of his Nov. 17, 2009, resignation from it. (Gachassin also is the development consultant for Joie de Vivre, a downtown apartment complex with partial funding from LPTFA that is paying him a $1 million consulting fee.)
The state’s ethics code appears clear on this “post-employment” restriction: After leaving a public board, you must wait two years before engaging in a transaction, for compensation, with the board. The definition of transaction is broad, covering just about anything the governmental entity is a party to or has an interest in.
Gachassin’s cut on the Villa Gardens and Cypress Trails developments? More than $1 million bucks (he gets about half of the developer fee).
Read more on Gachassin's potential ethics problem in this week's Last Word First column here.
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.