Wednesday, October 5, 2011

District 3 City-Parish Councilman Brandon Shelvin’s campaign finance report was disappointing at best — disturbing at worst. By Leslie Turk

The Independent’s ongoing reporting on Brandon Shelvin’s history in the Lafayette business world has revealed deeply troubling questions about his judgment, ethics, honesty and suitability for the public office he holds. So imagine our surprise when we reviewed his campaign contributions, which were due to the Louisiana Board of Ethics 30 days before the Oct. 22 primary.

There’s $250 from Sheriff Mike Neustrom’s campaign fund; $250 from the law firm of Mike Skinner, a former U.S. attorney appointed by President Bill Clinton; and $250 from Nick Gachassin Jr., who served as first assistant state attorney general under Charles Foti.

“I was shocked, confused, couldn’t understand it — how all these things come together,” says Carencro City Manager Lloyd Rochon, who is challenging Shelvin for the District 3 seat.

“He’s not perfect,” Neustrom says of Shelvin and his decision to donate $250 from his own campaign fund to the incumbent District 3 councilman. “There are no perfect elected officials anywhere.” The sheriff got down-right defensive when this reporter questioned what kind of message his supporting Shelvin sends to voters who also elected him serve as the top law enforcement official in the parish. “Don’t take what I’ve done and blow it out of proportion and imply there is something wrong with my lens,” he says — further questioning whether that line of reasoning is akin to painting past supporters of Gov. Edwin Edwards with the same brush of corruption.

But there is something wrong with his lens: the facts are the facts.

When he first sought the council seat, Shelvin qualified on Sept. 4, 2007, less than three months after purchasing a home at 301 Monarch Drive in District 3. Lafayette’s city-parish charter requires that a candidate for the council live in the district for the seat he is seeking at least six months before qualifying for office.
• Even after purchasing the home, he continued to live in District 2, sharing a Section 8 home with his girlfriend. Former Lafayette Housing Authority Executive Director Walter Guillory confirmed that Shelvin’s girlfriend, Justine Sampy, was terminated from the Section 8 program in July 2008 after his staff investigated and validated a complaint that Shelvin was living in the house in violation of the contract with LHA. Shelvin was sitting on the council at the time Sampy was removed from the program.
• No District 3 resident ever challenged either of the residency issues, which is why Shelvin remained on the council.
• Automotive warranty company EasyCare confirmed in early 2010 that it did not receive from Shelvin money he took from customers for extended warranties on approximately 20 vehicles purchased at his ThriftyWay Car Sales between July 2008 and February 2009 — while he was on the council. The cost of the service contracts ranged from $700 to $1,800 each.
• More than a year after pocketing the warranty payments and facing at least one lawsuit, Shelvin borrowed money from IberiaBank (the lien holder on the auto loans), likely to pay EasyCare and make good on the contracts.
• The day our March 2010 investigative cover story on Shelvin was published, local school bus driver Stacie Durham, who had been trying for nine months to recover the tax, title and license fees she paid Shelvin when she purchased a 2005 Chevy Avalanche in February 2009, finally got her money. She’d paid the fees when she financed the car, but the check Shelvin wrote to the state Department of Public Safety to cover the fees was returned NSF. The department notified her that her commercial driver’s license would be suspended.
• A month later, in April 2010, Shelvin defaulted on a loan backed by his minister, forcing a seizure and sale proceeding on the home the minister put up as collateral.
• As recently as this August, Shelvin still owed at least four plaintiffs (including three banks) in civil lawsuits filed against him approximately $90,000. He defaulted on the IberiaBank loan; that bank is now one of three creditors in line to garnish his city-parish council pay (garnishments handled by Neustrom’s office). Creditor Castille Financial already gets $240 each month from Shelvin’s $25,480 annual c-p salary (which is also being garnished $640 per month for child support).
• No one knows how Shelvin makes a living. The only other income reported on his personal financial disclosure report, filed to the Louisiana Board of Ethics on Aug. 15, is less than $5,000 annually to his consulting company, Southwest Solutions LLC. The company filed with the Secretary of State’s office on April 26, 2010 — listing only Shelvin as an officer and attorney Jeff Elmore as its registered agent. Shelvin is widely believed to be a salesman for Mello Joy Coffee, owned by Elmore’s father, prominent local businessman Wayne Elmore.

District 3 Deserves Better
Whoever is elected to serve District 3 has a tremendous responsibility. Along with working to improve the quality of life for residents in the district and the community as a whole, he will weigh in on and vote on LCG’s $543 million budget and also is one of five members of the board of directors of the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority, the regulating body charged with oversight of LUS and LUS Fiber.

A Minimum Standard
Should there not be some expectation of business management and corporate oversight skills for the City-Parish Council?

Should there not be some expectation of good character and truthfulness when we elect someone to hold this office? “That goes without saying,” Neustrom tells this paper, making it impossible for us to understand how he can rationalize his financial support for someone who by just about any measure is not fit to serve as a councilman.

If we stop corruption on the local level maybe — just maybe — we can stop it from getting to Baton Rouge. Edwards, as we all know, got his start as a city councilman in Crowley.

Contributors to Brandon Shelvin’s re-election campaign
Jan. 1 - Sept. 12, 2011
(Note that 34 of the 43 contributions, $16,500 or more than 80 percent of his Shelvin’s contributions, came in a single day, July 21, the date of a downtown fundraiser. Nearly a third of that amount is $1,000 contributions, the max by law for a candidate at Shelvin’s level. The majority of these contributors do not live in Shelvin’s district. Shelvin’s challenger, Lloyd Rochon, had by last week raised almost $5,000 and told us his campaign is also being financed by $4,000 in personal loans.)
Chip and Jennifer Jackson    $100
Gregory Elmore    $250
Denice and Timothy Skinner    $250
Mike Neustrom Campaign Fund    $250
Donald Valliere    $250
Brandon Mouton    $1,000
Charlotte and John Ford    $250
Cox Communications    $250
Paul Segura    $250
Alfred F. Boustany    $300
Orrister Henderson    $100
Lester J. Gauthier Jr.    $50
Donald Cravins    $125
Haynie & Associates Inc.    $500
S. Dianne Reger    $1,000
MWL Architects    $1,000
Greg and Julia Gachassin    $500
The Cartesian Company
   (G. Gachassin company)    $500
Park Group Construction
   (G. Gachassin company)    $500
Dr. Philip Gachassin    $250
Nick Gachassin Jr.    .......$250
Glenn and Jennifer Angelle    $500
Theresa M. Leblanc    $1,000
Cloutier - Monceaux    $500
Catahoula Restaurant Corp.    $500
Legends Annex LLC    $300
Tawasky Ventroy    $1,000
Drue and Mattie Bergeron    $1,000
Wayne Elmore    $1,000
Elmore Consulting LLC    $250
Nidal Balbeisi    $1,000
Glenn Stewart    $1,000
Martin and Christy Perret    $1,000
John “Rob” Robison IV    $500
Skinner Law Firm    $250
Frankie’s    $250
Architects Southwest    $1,000
Gregg and Jolynn Falgout    $500
3 Frenchmen Janitorial Inc.    $250
Don’s Wholesale LLC    $1,000

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