To recap, the university's and the Louisiana Division of Administration's excuse for not releasing the new appraisal was that it was conducted "in anticipation of litigation." Then the university also said it wasn't expecting to be sued over the botched land swap deal, the one where 36 acres of UL's Johnston Street horse farm would be exchanged for Davidson's 4 residential acres on Girard Park Drive to expand UL's campus.
In the latest head-scratching development in the land swap debacle, last week Authement's attorney, Steve Oats, told The Independent Weekly's legal counsel, Gary McGoffin, that the state may expropriate the Davidson property, a legal process also commonly referred to as eminent domain. The state claims if it can't negotiate a deal to buy Davidson's property, it may take the old homes and acreage ' private property that isn't even connected with the university campus. The courts would decide whether the state has a right to take the site, and Davidson (a past president and current member of the UL Board of Trustees) would have a right to a trial by jury to determine his compensation. That's the litigation they're anticipating.
This justification for keeping the record from the public appears to be a desperate measure in Authement's longstanding mission to acquire Davidson's property. In late 2003, Davidson's good friend, appraiser George Parker, was hired by Authement to value the land and homes, and Parker came up with a $3.25 million price tag.
That's what Davidson thought he'd get in the land swap, especially after the Board of Supervisors for the UL System approved the deal in mid-2005. Under intense criticism over the dubious $3.25 million valuations of both the horse farm and Davidson properties and numerous questions about the cozy group of principals involved, in December the board asked the state DOA to recommend a new, "independent" appraiser. In all likelihood Davidson's came back a couple of months ago from independent appraiser Lane Godshall at about half of Parker's appraisal (the horse farm has not yet been reappraised), but concerned residents won't know for sure until they get to see the document.
Presumably, neither Authement nor Davidson liked the outcome of the new valuation, leading to the decision to keep the record from the public. Authement announced in mid-July that the land swap deal was off ' but that he's still seeking money from the state's cash-strapped higher education board to buy the Davidson land outright.
Perhaps the most interesting twist in the saga's expropriation chapter is Davidson's experience with this kind of legal work. For years, he handled expropriation matters for local government, with George Parker (who is now retired) conducting the appraisals.
The new appraisal is unquestionably a public document, says Josh Zelden, an attorney for the Louisiana Press Association. The "anticipation of litigation" exemption applies to executive sessions held as part of public meetings ' not to this type of public record. And in cases where closed-door executive session meetings are called to discuss pending litigation, an attorney general's opinion holds that there must be a written demand and the parties disclosed. So for the state to even attempt to piggy-back on this exemption it must produce a written demand from its would-be opponent, Davidson (a demand it has not disclosed because it likely does not exist) and show that public discussion of the case would be detrimental to the state's position or strategy. Only then could the documents related to this exemption be legally kept from the public. "It is irrational and self-contradictory to suggest that disclosure of an appraisal showing a lower value for the property in question could hurt the public body attempting to acquire the property," says Zelden. "It can only help."
It's unclear what kind of argument the state will make to support expropriation of the property. To successfully take private property, government must prove there is a public or "necessary" purpose, like construction of an interstate. But some state and local governments have been trying to take private property for economic development purposes; the issue has become a political hot potato in post-Katrina Louisiana, and this fall voters will decide on a far-reaching constitutional amendment to restrict expropriation for economic development purposes.
Why the state would consider creating a legal mess over this already controversial piece of property is anyone's guess. And if its latest excuse has any legitimacy, although it still falls short of proving the appraisal should not be released to the public, is any private property on Girard Park Drive ' or anywhere in Lafayette, for that matter ' safe from the university's grasp?
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.
Urgent Care clinics unprepared for Ebola; Nazis collected Social Security; Hawaii dodges a bullet and more national and international news for Monday, October 20, 2014.
Monday's Blogs from the Bog!
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.
Aligned with the party of an unpopular president, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu sought to keep her distance from the Obama administration, against claims from her chief Republican challenger Bill Cassidy that a vote to re-elect the Democratic incumbent was a vote for Barack Obama.
Seven people in Louisiana and two others in Mississippi have been arrested in connection with an international online sales scam.
Despite the hype and potential misinformation to have spread in the wake of Mark Cockerham’s recent departure from the LPSB, his candidacy for reelection is still on — now with the backing of the Chamber's Empower PAC.