Another Conflict for Gachassin?

Yet again, a paper trail appears to show that a local development consultant was laying the foundation for a million bucks in fees while he served as chairman of a public board.

By Leslie Turk

Another Conflict for Gachassin?

Yet again, a paper trail appears to show that a local development consultant was laying the foundation for a million bucks in fees while he served as chairman of a public board.

By Leslie Turk

Greg Gachassin stands to make almost $1 million on the controversial downtown mixed-use development Joie de Vivre, a project partially funded by the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority. The LPTFA’s once-limited involvement, however, has changed in recent weeks, as the public trust is set to take over the entire $16.5 million project from the beleaguered Acadiana Outreach Center. For the past six months, nonprofit Acadiana Outreach, which provided a vital service to the area’s homeless and drug-addicted, has been reeling from gross financial mismanagement of its Abbeville treatment facility.

Court records reveal that when he was chairman of the board of trustees for LPTFA in May 2009, Gachassin appeared at the signing for the purchase of 119 Olivier St. in Mills Addition to Urban Ventures, a limited liability corporation that was buying property on behalf of Acadiana Outreach. At that time, Acadiana Outreach was still in the planning stages of the affordable housing development.

Gachassin signed the $55,000 property transaction as a witness, presumably present due to his affiliation with LPTFA.

But it wasn’t until April 2011 that the public trust loaned Acadiana Outreach $1 million for the project, so what would have been its role in 2009? Or was Gachassin already working for Acadiana Outreach when he signed as a witness? Therein lies the potential conflict of interest.

At some point after that property purchase, and well shy of two years since his resignation from the LPTFA board, Acadiana Outreach officially contracted with Gachassin as the project consultant.

His appearance at the May 2009 signing reveals that he had an inside track on Acadiana Outreach’s plans and did not wait the mandatory two years before getting financially involved in a project financed by the very public agency for which he had just served. Created in 1979, the public trust’s original documents note that it is subject to the “Public Contracts Law, Public Records Law, Public Meetings Law, Code of Ethics and the Bond Validation Procedures Law.”

And, according to Louisiana Code of Ethics: “No legal entity in which the former public servant is an officer, director, trustee, partner or employee shall, for a period of two years following the termination of the public servant’s service, assist another person, for compensation, in a transaction, or in an appearance in connection with a transaction in which the former public servant participated at any time during his public service and which involves the agency with which he was formerly employed or in which he formerly held office.”

That restriction involves a broad range of proceedings: application, submission, request for a ruling or other determination, contract, claim, case, or other matters that the public servant or former public servant knows or should know is the subject of action by the governmental entity, or is one to which the governmental entity is or will be a party.

At least two Lafayette residents have filed formal ethics complaints against Gachassin, and his own attorney, former Ethics Board Chief Administrator Gray Sexton, confirmed to the The Independent that an investigation is under way.

Up until this point, Gachassin’s potential conflicts of interest appeared limited to Cypress Trails Apartments, an LPTFA project he orchestrated and took over less than a month after his Nov. 17, 2009, resignation as its chair, and Villa Gardens, a single-family residential development partially funded by LPTFA while he was on the board. All three of the aforementioned projects — along with a fourth, Villas at Angel Point — were awarded highly competitive low-income housing tax credits from the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, another public board Gachassin served on from January 2005 to October 2007.

Records from LHFA indicate that Gachassin’s fee on Cypress Trails, Villa Gardens and Villas at Angel Point was a combined $1.5 million. Joie de Vivre has a development fee of $1.9 million, which Gachassin will split with the local public trust he once chaired.

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