ONE POINT FIVE MILLION DOLLARS. That's the value of Lafayette attorney Jimmy Davidson's Girard Park Drive property -- less than half the $3.25 million UL Lafayette was going to pay in the now-defunct horse farm land swap deal -- according to the most recent appraisal of the land. The contentious appraisal, which The Independent Weekly successfully argued was a public record in a June 30 lawsuit against the university, was turned over by UL on Monday. The university decided not to appeal 15th Judicial District Judge Ed Rubin's Sept. 11 decision that the document, prepared by Lafayette appraiser Lane Godshall, is a public record ordered in connection with the proposed property exchange (all other appraisals had been eagerly released by the university). Rubin rejected the university's claim that the document was prepared in anticipation of litigation ' specifically a potential expropriation lawsuit the state might one day file to seize the Davidson property.
The $1.75 million discrepancy in the overvalued Davidson land isn't all the university stood to lose. It was also leaving $2.12 million on the table by selling the horse farm acreage as undervalued residential land while attempting to rezone it to a more valuable commercial zoning classification for the buyer. That's almost $4 million the university was squandering in this deal, which the Board of Supervisors for the UL System approved in August 2005 ' not to mention how close Lafayette came to having the state's beloved horse farm acreage turned into a retail center with a planned Wal-Mart store. Thanks to widespread community activism and opposition, the 100-acre horse farm is -- for now -- safe from this kind of development.
In a secretive deal between a tight-knit group of university officials and supporters that smacked of cronyism, the university had proposed exchanging 36 acres of its horse farm land on Johnston Street for 4.1 acres of Davidson's family land on Girard Park Drive, claiming both were valued at $3.25 million. The first Davidson appraisal was conducted in December 2003 by now-retired appraiser George Parker, a close associate of Davidson's. UL President Ray Authement testified in his deposition that he did not officially call off the exchange until mid-June, when he met with the respective parties; the university did not publicly acknowledge the land swap's demise until almost a month later.
While handing over the appraisal to The Independent Weekly, the university issued a tersely worded press release to local media saying it initially assumed the appraisal was a public record and was prepared to make the document public: "Upon learning of a state statute that specifically excepts appraisals from the Public Records Law and learning of the Division of Administration's policy prohibiting release of appraisals, the university sought advice of legal counsel. Acting upon this advice, the university did not release the appraisal." The Louisiana Public Records Law does not exempt land appraisals, except in specific cases where there is ongoing or impending litigation, but the Division of Administration has kept all such appraisals from the public under that guise for decades, citing only its unwritten, long-standing policy of not releasing appraisals of land the state is interested in acquiring.
It was the Board of Supervisors for the UL System that stepped in at the 11th hour to order "independent" appraisals of both the Davidson property and the horse farm acreage, but the horse farm has yet to be reappraised. The board intervened on Dec. 7 only after being compelled to do so by the $2.12 discrepancy on the horse farm.
In contrast to the position Authement asserts in Monday's press release, the university president said in his Aug. 31 deposition that the value of the new appraisal of Davidson's property should not be released, even though his friend Davidson already knew the value. The first reason he cited? "Public opinion."
The circumstances surrounding the death last March while in the backseat of a sheriff’s cruiser of Victor White III, long a source of dispute by White’s family, have earned an investigation by federal officials.
With six of the LPSB’s nine members poised for Pat Cooper’s termination, a request was filed Tuesday for a fast-tracked hearing on the federal lawsuit calling for the disqualification of two board members from voting on the matter due to bias.
Louisiana's Republican Party has filed a complaint against Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu with the Senate's ethics committee about her use of private chartered planes.
An attorney signs up to run against LPSB's Mark Cockerham, and within a week a lawsuit is filed by a former LPSS employee in an attempt to disqualify him. Coincidence?
The Ragin’ Cajuns got off to a superb start Saturday night, and the Human Jukebox made the soaked season opener even sweeter for the third-largest crowd in Cajun Field history.
The Louisiana health department will follow a federal judge's order and refrain from immediately penalizing doctors who are trying to comply with a new abortion law that requires them to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, a spokeswoman said Monday.
While bogged down with qualifying candidates last month, Secretary of State Tom Schedler didn’t lose sight of the true endgame coming in November and December.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Stoned driving a concern when pot is legal; Detroit's bankruptcy trial; speed trap scandal in Florida and more national and international news for Tuesday, September 02, 2014.
A federal jury found attorney Daniel Stanford guilty Friday afternoon on eight of 13 counts for his role in the Curious Goods conspiracy.
Lafayette City-Court Judge Francie Bouillion has served on the bench for two decades since winning a special election to replace Judge Kaliste Saloom when he retired in 1994.
The magazine's senior football writer also predicts a break-out year for Saints fourth-year running back Mark Ingram.
Gulf Coast ceremonies marking the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina have begun.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says there is little known about the effects of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp. But, officials say the reports they're seeking will help state biologists monitor the distribution of the prawns and determine the possible presence of spawning populations.
Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice's backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
High-profile criminal defense attorney Daniel Stanford awaits his fate in the Curious Goods conspiracy trial.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is set to put the kibosh on the legal ownership of monkeys trained to help the disabled, and the agency wants to know what you think.
A federal judge on Thursday asked lawyers battling over Louisiana's new, restrictive abortion law for an agreement that apparently could let clinics stay open — at least for a while — after the law takes effect Sept. 1.
An abortion rights organization wants a federal judge to block enforcement of Louisiana's new abortion law while its lawsuit to overturn the law makes its way through court.
Republican presidential prospects Ted Cruz and Bobby Jindal are planning to speak at an Iowa Christian conservative event in September.
The attention surrounding Victor White III has spiked with the release of last week’s autopsy report, which has raised a number of serious questions about the night of his death and has put the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office under an increased wave of scrutiny as more national media outlets are jumping on the story, most recently seen on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."