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."
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, December 13, 2013:
The Louisiana Supreme Court has punted on its first chance to decide whether a new state constitutional provision declaring gun possession a fundamental right could void a long list of criminal statutes that regulate firearms.
New Orleans' offense, which ranks sixth in the NFL, isn't helping many of its skill players pile up Pro Bowl-type stats. Rather, the approach of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees has enabled a wide range of play-makers to emerge periodically with high-production outings.
An ordinance phasing out a rebate businesses receive for collecting and remitting sales taxes is tabled, but it doesn’t solve the vexing issue of government revenue.
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
That would be Congressman John Fleming talking about Sen. David Vitter.
The alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme that went on for four years under DA Mike Harson’s nose isn’t just schizophrenic, bipolar and recovering from mini strokes; he now says he has cancer.
Louisiana's higher education leaders are trying to work out a financing deal to keep the state's public colleges from running low on state cash to operate their campuses.
With their latest triumph, the Saints left little doubt about how tough they are to beat in the Superdome. Unfortunately, two of their remaining three games are on the road.
For the first time in at least five years, retired teachers, state workers and school system employees could see an increase in their pension checks.
Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration shared a collective sigh of relief with the news that Louisiana's tax amnesty program brought in the $200 million that they used to help balance this year's budget.
Drew Brees often makes the extraordinary look routine, particularly during night games in the Superdome.
The teams were extended invitations Sunday for the New Year's Day matchup played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.