Development consultant Greg Gachassin’s potential ethics dilemma won’t end with The Independent Weekly’s April 20 cover story, “How Gachassin Games the System.” And it shouldn’t.
The low-income housing fiasco that has been dogging Lafayette since last summer and led to federal investigations of the Lafayette Housing Authority also involves some very well-connected local professionals. At least one of them, Gachassin, appears to have violated the state's Code of Governmental Ethics.
The Louisiana Board of Ethics is now compelled to take the matter up, because on May 2 state Rep. Rickey Hardy, who helped blow the whistle on the LHA's troubles, lodged a formal complaint. “It would seem as if Mr. Gachassin has violated the ethics laws of the State of Louisiana while serving as chairman and member of the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority... [and] appears to have been in ethics violation even after his resignation from the [LPTFA],” Hardy wrote to the state's top ethics administrator, Kathleen Allen.
The LPTFA is a trust organized under the laws of the state that holds millions for the benefit of Lafayette Consolidated Government. In his letter, Hardy is referencing this newspaper’s story about how Gachassin, while on LPTFA's board, orchestrated low-income housing deals in north Lafayette that involved both LPTFA funding and federal low-income housing tax credits. He then signed on as a consultant for two of them, Villa Gardens and Cypress Trails, while still on the board or within weeks of his Nov. 17, 2009, resignation from it. (Gachassin also is the development consultant for Joie de Vivre, a downtown apartment complex with partial funding from LPTFA that is paying him a $1 million consulting fee.)
The state’s ethics code appears clear on this “post-employment” restriction: After leaving a public board, you must wait two years before engaging in a transaction, for compensation, with the board. The definition of transaction is broad, covering just about anything the governmental entity is a party to or has an interest in.
Gachassin’s cut on the Villa Gardens and Cypress Trails developments? More than $1 million bucks (he gets about half of the developer fee).
Read more on Gachassin's potential ethics problem in this week's Last Word First column here.
MAY 21 Gambit columnist Clancy DuBos writes about the Mother's Day shooting, and how the stages of shock and blame and healing mirror those traveled by the same city following Hurricane Katrina. The city will recover, just as it did following the storm, by reaching out to help the people injured most seriously by the event, DuBos writes. It's how we heal, he says.
MAY 21 Here's a post on the Advocate (but buried on a subpage, not on the front) that reports something Louisiana Voice reported some time ago: a top DOE official lives in Los Angeles and "commutes" to Baton Rouge. The positioning of the story caused a stir on Facebook Monday, with several posters asking if the Advocate was covering someone's hiney. Sentell's stories on DOE are notoriously soft, and this one is no different: don't expect any hard questions in here.
MAY 21 Here's another post from blogger Tom Aswell about the "course choice" program. He's already reported on kids being signed up without their consent or knowledge, and has more here: For example, he tells of a six-year-old who was signed up for high school Latin. He also digs a little deeper into the sister companies of the main one operating in Louisiana; all of them seem to have complaints against them. Stinky.
MAY 21 Given the 80 percent cut in higher ed funding since he's been in office, it's clear Gov. Jindal would rather give tax cuts to out of state companies than have a functioning system, blogger Dayne Sherman argues in this post. The cuts have been such a disaster, Sherman says, that it will take 30 years to fix what's been broken. He says he believes the aim is to shut down most of the schools before Jindal leaves in 2016.
MAY 21 Blogger CB Forgotston says there are too many elections in Louisiana, and they're costing us too much money. The proof is in the pudding: turnout for most of these nonsensical pollings gets worse and worse, CB opines, even as millions of dollars that could be spent on health care or higher ed go down the tubes. The legislature must take action to stem the tide of pointless elections, he says.
MAY 21 Here's an interesting investigative piece by WVUE on the retirement benefits of some Jefferson Parish public employees. According to the story, the taxpayers are paying 100 percent of the retirement contributions of employees who started work prior to a certain date in April 1986 -- and have done for more than 30 years. It costs the parish millions annually, and might not be legal, the story reports.
MAY 21 This post on Bayou Buzz provides insight from Louisiana's intrepid pollster, Bernie Pinsonat, on the winners and losers from this year's legislative session. But to hear Bernie tell it, there's almost nuttin but losers: Jindal, the Republican party, the Fiscal Hawks all get big goose eggs in his win column.
MAY 20 This post on The Lens takes a look at a huge (either $500K or $250K) bill that one NOLA charter now has for school lunches. The RSD says the charter group didn't fill out the proper paperwork for federal reimbursement, but the story details how the RSD didn't ensure the people running the charter had the proper training, despite requests from hapless charter employees trying to fill out forms. Either way, somebody's asleep at the wheel.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.