The irony of those words is too much for Hefner to swallow. Some LeBlanc supporters may have short memories, but the well-respected school board member does not. Hefner says in the mid-1980s the LeBlancs, then doing business as LeBlanc & Associates Inc. (with Pat as secretary/treasurer, according to the Secretary of State's records), did not pay to correct a design flaw that caused problems at Ridge Elementary. The contractor, the Lemoine Co., followed the LeBlancs' specifications on the driveway, which after only a few years had begun to crumble. Hefner says the Lemoines agreed to remedy the project at their cost, about $60,000. But when the school board sent the LeBlancs a demand letter asking for reimbursement, they got a surprising response: "When [school board attorney Lane Roy] got a response back, they were saying, 'Good luck, the firm is bankrupt,'" Hefner says.
Bankruptcy records indicate that LeBlanc & Associates filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization on Feb. 2, 1987, and the very next month, Pat, his father Jaco and brother Mike formed The LeBlanc Group, another architectural firm. LeBlanc and Associates' Chapter 11 was converted to Chapter 7 (liquidation) on April 5, 1988, and the case closed in May of the following year, according to bankruptcy records. In the meantime, however, the LeBlancs were back in business, building a conglomerate of companies that have made Pat LeBlanc a very wealthy man. LeBlanc entities now include LCS Corrections Services, Premier Management Enterprises and LeBlanc Construction Co. LCS is the fifth largest private prison company in the country and has 900 employees in Louisiana, Texas and Alabama.
About a decade after the Ridge incident, The LeBlanc Group was vying for a lucrative contract to design the multi-million dollar N.P. Moss Middle School. "When they applied for the architectural contract for N.P. Moss in '97 my concern was I remembered this design problem we had trouble collecting on, getting a warranty on," Hefner says. "I tend to remember that."
Heated controversy erupted when it was discovered that The LeBlanc Group had not renewed its architectural license, and attorney Roy recommended that The LeBlanc Group be disqualified from the selection process. The contract was eventually awarded to a firm that was not in the initial running.
Fast forward to the present, and LeBlanc is again surrounded by unanswered questions, this time involving an alleged bribery scandal in Texas. Bexar County Sheriff Ralph Lopez recently resigned and pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor charges, including not reporting a gift from Pat and Mike LeBlanc's Premier Management. Less than a month later, Lopez's longtime campaign manager, John Reynolds, a member of the board that awarded Premier contracts to run the jail's commissaries, pleaded guilty to felony theft in an agreement that has the 70-year-old facing 10 years in prison.
The LeBlancs have maintained their innocence, but the sheriff and his friend now have criminal records due to their relationship with the LeBlancs' company, Premier, and its contracts to sell soda and candy to prisoners.
LeBlanc has told The Independent Weekly and other media outlets that he thinks it's OK that he took elected officials on golf trips to Costa Rica when he was vying for contracts with them ' even likening such jaunts to the way private business is conducted in the oilfield. We disagree. Premier got approval for its first commissary contract in April 2005 and four months later took the sheriff and Reynolds on an all-expense paid golf trip to Costa Rica. Both LeBlanc brothers were on the trip, and Premier subsequently was awarded the rights to another contract.
LeBlanc also apparently thinks it's OK to pay "consulting fees" to elected officials or their friends in an attempt to secure business. We disagree. Reynolds' plea agreement includes information that he received two checks for consulting services of an unknown nature. Michael LeBlanc was the source of one of those checks, and Premier was the other, which was written for $5,014. "Ian [Williamson, Premier's CEO at the time] also stated that he asked John Reynolds why the 'consulting fee' he was charging was $5,014 and not $5,000 even, and John Reynolds told him that $5,000 looked too funny," according to an investigator's report filed in the plea agreement.
An FBI spokesman told The Daily Advertiser that the FBI is still investigating the "interstate aspects of if and how a scheme was perpetrated to illegally influence the (jail commissary) contract.
In an investigative story published last month in the San Antonio Express-News, the paper revealed that the Bexar County sheriff and his friends weren't the only ones in South Texas to benefit from helping Premier. "Sheriffs of two other counties awarded contracts to [Premier], and either they or their associates reaped financial benefits," the paper wrote.
LeBlanc also has a history of suing or threatening media outlets that report on his business dealings. The LeBlancs have sued the Express-News for libel over reports published in 2005 (as of last week, there had been no activity regarding the lawsuit for a year). Recently, Patrick LeBlanc threatened to sue Lafayette radio station KVOL 1330 AM for airing a conversation an online news service had with campaign worker Judy Keller.
On Oct. 8, LeBlanc's attorney, Christopher A. Edwards (Edwin Edwards' nephew and Congressman Charles Boustany's brother-in-law), sent an e-mail to KLFY and Page Cortez, LeBlanc's challenger, threatening a lawsuit over an anti-Pat LeBlanc ad. (Cortez has not run any negative ads; the ad in question was placed by Leadership for Louisiana, the political action committee founded by state Sen. Mike Michot and state Rep. Joel Robideaux.) KLFY has continued to run the ad, and the LeBlanc campaign has since threatened to sue Leadership for Louisiana, too.
If LeBlanc believes that intimidation tactics and wooing government officials with gifts and money are OK, it sets a troubling precedent for how he might conduct himself as an elected official. And although LeBlanc portrays himself as a staunch conservative Republican, the war he's waging in this campaign is against a fellow conservative Republican. If this is how he reacts to someone with similar values in his own political party, it doesn't bode well for LeBlanc's ability to effectively reach across party lines.
The last thing Lafayette and Louisiana needs is a representative with a hollow platform of ethics reform.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Oscar de la Renta dies; Pistorius sentenced; World Series begins and more national and international news for Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.
Coming off the high of a fourth quarter comeback against Tampa Bay and a helpful bye week, linebacker Junior Galette sees a real turnaround coming for New Orleans' struggling defense.
Former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party's most popular surrogate this fall, is heading to Louisiana early next week for a campaign rally with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Time and again you hear people say DA Mike Harson is unbeatable because he's doled out political favors over the past 20 years. But a new lawsuit could end that speculation.
After the season's signature win (so far), here are some helpful tips for Cajun Nation during the conference stretch.
Did the state close last year's books with a surplus or a deficit?
Practicing without limitations on Wednesday, running back Mark Ingram looked ready to return to a New Orleans offense that once again ranks among the NFL's best when the Saints play at Detroit on Sunday.
It’s been decided: Superintendents of Louisiana’s public school system will retain the controversial powers granted by Act 1 of the 2012 session.
Louisiana Treasurer John Kennedy has a bone to pick with the Jindal administration, which recently — surprise! — announced that the state ended the most recent budget year with a $178.5 million dollar surplus.
The messaging battle, however, isn't tied to individual campaign accounts. Third-party groups have poured millions of dollars into advertising.
With her political future in jeopardy, Sen. Mary Landrieu is turning to a natural constituent base in her re-election bid.
Terrance Broadway threw for a touchdown and rushed for 113 yards to lead Louisiana-Lafayette to a 34-10 victory over Texas State on Tuesday night.