Attorney Richard Becker penned a letter March 14 to the state attorney general for an opinion on whether records for the partnership formed to develop Cypress Trails Apartments are a matter of public record, but the request never made its way to the AG. Becker wrote the letter on behalf of the LPTFA, which is spearheading the apartment development.
“The attorney general’s office did not receive the request,” says AG spokeswoman Sharon Kleinpeter.
Becker could not be reached for comment this morning on whether he will submit the request — or resubmit, if by chance it was lost in the mail or misplaced or overlooked by the AG's office.
In connection with this week’s cover story, “How Gachassin Games the System,” the attorney made a written request to the AG dated March 14 and provided The Independent with a copy of the letter. The letter was written in response to our request for access to records on the partnerships and individuals involved in the 72-unit apartment complex for the elderly under way at Moss and Sophie streets in north Lafayette. We also asked to see a copy of the consulting contract signed between the publicly funded development and Greg Gachassin, a former LPTFA board member. The $10 million project is being funded in large part with low-income housing tax credits awarded to the LPTFA by the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency.
To execute its first low-income housing development, LPTFA formed an affiliate non-profit entity that is the general partner in Cypress Trails Limited Partnership, which also includes a private entity representing a tax-credit investor as the limited partner. LPTFA’s affiliate owns .01 percent interest as the general partner, with the private group owning 99.99 percent as the limited partner. Initially, LPTFA’s project involved the Lafayette Housing Authority, but LPTFA recently asked to remove LHA from the deal because of its financial and management problems that are the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation. With the LHA involved, the records for the partnership were exempt from the Louisiana Public Records Act, due to a special exemption for “affiliates” of housing authorities. The Independent now contends the partnership has forfeited that exemption.
LPTFA is a trust organized under the laws of the state that holds millions in assets for the benefit of city of Lafayette.
What the AG’s office did receive from Becker on March 15 was a request about whether the public trust can accept written votes from its board members without holding a public meeting. Becker indicated in the letter that LPTFA had recently formed an affiliate non-profit, presumably CTLP, to develop and own a low-income housing tax-credit project in Lafayette and has had difficulty coordinating the schedules of a quorum of its board of trustees for the numerous document approvals. The LPTFA board is already short one member, as the original documents creating it call for it to have a board of five.
The AG’s response to Becker’s request? No. The state’s Open Meetings Law requires a vote with a “live voice,” the AG informed him, and that person must be physically present.
“The request for an opinion concerning the application of La. R.S. 42:11 et seq, the Open Meetings Laws, to the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority was received in our office on March 15,” Kleinpeter says. “In response to that request, Opinion 11-0070 was released on Monday April 18. Our log in and paper work indicate that this was the only request from LPTFA.”