ONE POINT FIVE MILLION DOLLARS. That's the value of Lafayette attorney Jimmy Davidson's Girard Park Drive property -- less than half the $3.25 million UL Lafayette was going to pay in the now-defunct horse farm land swap deal -- according to the most recent appraisal of the land. The contentious appraisal, which The Independent Weekly successfully argued was a public record in a June 30 lawsuit against the university, was turned over by UL on Monday. The university decided not to appeal 15th Judicial District Judge Ed Rubin's Sept. 11 decision that the document, prepared by Lafayette appraiser Lane Godshall, is a public record ordered in connection with the proposed property exchange (all other appraisals had been eagerly released by the university). Rubin rejected the university's claim that the document was prepared in anticipation of litigation ' specifically a potential expropriation lawsuit the state might one day file to seize the Davidson property.
The $1.75 million discrepancy in the overvalued Davidson land isn't all the university stood to lose. It was also leaving $2.12 million on the table by selling the horse farm acreage as undervalued residential land while attempting to rezone it to a more valuable commercial zoning classification for the buyer. That's almost $4 million the university was squandering in this deal, which the Board of Supervisors for the UL System approved in August 2005 ' not to mention how close Lafayette came to having the state's beloved horse farm acreage turned into a retail center with a planned Wal-Mart store. Thanks to widespread community activism and opposition, the 100-acre horse farm is -- for now -- safe from this kind of development.
In a secretive deal between a tight-knit group of university officials and supporters that smacked of cronyism, the university had proposed exchanging 36 acres of its horse farm land on Johnston Street for 4.1 acres of Davidson's family land on Girard Park Drive, claiming both were valued at $3.25 million. The first Davidson appraisal was conducted in December 2003 by now-retired appraiser George Parker, a close associate of Davidson's. UL President Ray Authement testified in his deposition that he did not officially call off the exchange until mid-June, when he met with the respective parties; the university did not publicly acknowledge the land swap's demise until almost a month later.
While handing over the appraisal to The Independent Weekly, the university issued a tersely worded press release to local media saying it initially assumed the appraisal was a public record and was prepared to make the document public: "Upon learning of a state statute that specifically excepts appraisals from the Public Records Law and learning of the Division of Administration's policy prohibiting release of appraisals, the university sought advice of legal counsel. Acting upon this advice, the university did not release the appraisal." The Louisiana Public Records Law does not exempt land appraisals, except in specific cases where there is ongoing or impending litigation, but the Division of Administration has kept all such appraisals from the public under that guise for decades, citing only its unwritten, long-standing policy of not releasing appraisals of land the state is interested in acquiring.
It was the Board of Supervisors for the UL System that stepped in at the 11th hour to order "independent" appraisals of both the Davidson property and the horse farm acreage, but the horse farm has yet to be reappraised. The board intervened on Dec. 7 only after being compelled to do so by the $2.12 discrepancy on the horse farm.
In contrast to the position Authement asserts in Monday's press release, the university president said in his Aug. 31 deposition that the value of the new appraisal of Davidson's property should not be released, even though his friend Davidson already knew the value. The first reason he cited? "Public opinion."
So far the Democratic agenda includes proposals to expand Medicaid; increase the minimum wage; offer equal pay to women; heighten regulations on predatory lending practices, like payday loans; and add more transparency in the governor’s office.
Hot-button education issues ranging from Common Core to charter schools have some lawmakers pushing to scrap the appointing process and go back to electing the state's super.
Police say the handcuffed man fatally shot himself in the back, but his family isn't buying the story.
Gov. Bobby Jindal offered a budget proposal that suggests new education and health care spending, pay raises for state workers and an incentive fund to encourage colleges to enhance their science, engineering and technology training.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, March 11, 2014:
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
They came by the hundreds, arriving from all regions of the state to gather on the steps of our Capitol in protest of the Legislature’s long tradition of giving industry the go-ahead to abuse our air, our water and our coastline, all in the name of good economics.
Gov. Bobby Jindal’s recent rhetoric against President Barack Obama has failed to boost his standing among the conservative base.
Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
The state has hired marksmen to shoot feral hogs from helicopters at two wildlife management areas in south Louisiana.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.