As Haney addressed the council, enumerating points with his pen in the air, Langlinais sat to his right slumped in his chair, frowning at what he has deemed a "conspiracy" and a "witch hunt." The parish president claims the audit, initially requested by four council members, was politically motivated. In particular, he has singled out Councilman Bernard Broussard, who is considering a run for parish president in the fall. Another councilman who initiated the audit, Ray Fremin, is running for state representative.
Following the council's vote to begin its own investigation, Langlinais delivered an impassioned three-minute speech that ended in what some council members regarded as an attempt at intimidation. "Is this a two-edged sword?" Langlinais asked Haney. "There are some possible improprieties by some council members ... some issues not discussed in the audit ... that I feel I should have the opportunity to address."
"I felt he was throwing us a threat out there," says Councilman Glen Romero. Haney directed Langlinais to bring his information to the criminal investigation unit of the State Police. "I'd like nothing better than that," Langlinais replied as he abruptly left the meeting.
The Independent Weekly has since learned that Langlinais' threats are not limited to elected officials. Last week, parish employees brought claims of intimidation by Langlinais to council members and Haney. Several sources in parish government confirm that multiple parish employees are worried about the security of their jobs. Citing an environment of harassment and intimidation, the council directed Haney to appoint an attorney who will be available to employees who feel they are being intimidated.
"We're trying to prevent [Langlinais] firing employees," Assistant DA Eric Duplantis says. "It would result in another series of problems. It's important that the day to day work of the parish be done while this whole commotion is going on."
Following receipt of the state audit in March, Haney's office subpoenaed all 1,800 pages of the report's background documents from the legislative auditor's office, including the interviews with council members, parish employees, parish contractors and Langlinais. Haney's office then brought in investigators from the state police who are retracing the footsteps of the auditors. According to Duplantis, the state police will "reinterview a substantial amount of the people who were interviewed by the legislative auditor to see if their experiences are consistent."
Duplantis explains that the auditors were looking for budgetary violations, but the DA's office has a different role. "The legislative auditor may stop at some point and can't go further. We can't do that. Once you start asking people questions you don't know where it's going exactly. If we're talking to someone and they tell us multiple pieces of information, we can't stop; we have to go wherever the evidence goes. We don't know for sure, but we believe we'll be in a position to take to the grand jury the results of the investigation by our office and the state police. At that point the grand jury decides if there's sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges."
Recovering the public's money is a council priority; the audit detailed lost revenues to the parish from 2000 and 2006. Langlinais received $26,918 in meal and hotel reimbursements while he was also collecting a per diem from the parish and the Police Jury Association, for meals and hotel stays in advance. Between 2002 and 2005, the parish public works department provided at no charge to parish residents, including Langlinais' daughter, approximately $156,707 in pipe, dirt, gravel and labor. The audit also found that attorney Shane Romero was paid $35,250 in undocumented retainer fees from an oral contract between him and Langlinais (plus $343,879 through the parish's risk management fund during part of the contract's duration), and $4,785 in duplicate invoices for his services. Romero is the son of term-limited state Rep. Errol "Romo" Romero and is running for his father's seat in the Legislature. Additionally, Langlinais used $8,825 of public funds for donations, employee luncheons, tickets and charity donations.
All told, Langlinais could be responsible for reimbursing more than $500,000 out of his own pocket, according to Broussard. Under the terms of the charter, explains assistant DA Eric Duplantis, "if money is spent without proper authorization, the person who authorized it without the correct permission has to pay it back. So that action will be either through discussion with the person who owes the money or through a lawsuit." Haney is requesting help from the state attorney general's office, or if the AG is unavailable, another district attorney or outside counsel to assist the parish council in recovering this money. To date, Langlinais has paid back $1,895.46 to the council and $618 to the Police Jury Association. Shane Romero returned $7,912.46 to the parish, according to Iberia Parish Finance Director Kimberly Segura.
Since the March 5 receipt of the audit, council members have been in a quandary over how to proceed with the audit's recommendations to remedy potential charter violations. However, at last week's meeting they decided to begin the investigation contingent on Haney providing guidelines, which he says should be ready for the next regular meeting on April 25. Section 2-08 of the parish's Home Rule Charter has a provision for "investigations into the affairs of the Parish government and related conduct of any Parish official, officer, employee, department, office or agency and for this purpose may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony and require product of evidence." While some council members were initially hesitant to take on the role of investigative body, the council unanimously voted to put the investigation in motion. "Congress does this all the time," Duplantis says. "But in this parish, nobody's done this before. There's no blueprint. And it's always hard to be the first to do something. I think they should be nervous about it."
While the council's inquiry will have a wide scope, an independent attorney will be appointed to prevent interference with the DA's criminal investigation. "What if they have a witness who is starting to talk about something that is clearly a problem?" Duplantis asks. "Do you Mirandize people? My feeling is when they are forming this investigative committee, an attorney would have to be part of the process, probably a prosecutor from the AG's office who is not part of our investigation, but who would know to say 'Stop, don't answer that.'"
Some council members have been waiting a long time for this process to begin. Broussard, for one, is ready. "If asked by my fellow council members, I have no problem chairing the investigative committee. There are things that I thought the audit would address that were not in it. Mosquito Control [Contractors Inc.] ' that was a contract I thought the audit would address. But it wasn't even mentioned. It's going to get very nasty. But if we don't finish what we're doing, it will set up a very bad business environment for Iberia Parish. We're at a crossroads. Someone needs to say enough is enough. This won't go away by not looking at it."
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 former star of Saturday Night Live throws in his 2 cents on the Big Oil lawsuit.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday, March 10, 2014:
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.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.