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."
Mike Harson's coffers show the advantage of incumbency.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will vote on an ordinance for final adoption Tuesday that, if approved, would give the city the green light to take over a stretch of Verot School Road from the state Department of Transportation and Development.
The Louisiana Association of Educators filed a lawsuit challenging the $60 million in spending through Louisiana's public school financing formula.
He's been out of office for nearly a decade, but former U.S. Sen. John Breaux is back on the campaign trail, urging voters to support his one-time colleague, Democrat Mary Landrieu.
The unresolved fate of the ashes left behind after Ebola waste was destroyed in Texas highlights the problem U.S. hospitals and communities could face in disposing of their own waste.
While much of the talk was about whether New Orleans could win a big game — or any game, for that matter — on the road, the conversation in the Saints' locker room was about something completely different.
State health officials told thousands of doctors planning to attend a tropical diseases meeting this weekend in New Orleans to stay away if they have been to certain African countries or have had contact with an Ebola patient in the last 21 days.
Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama's deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.
Compared to the rest of the country, Lafayette has it pretty good when it comes to the cost and speed of our Internet.
Hello Kitty turns 40; police ambush suspect caught; Knicks surprise Cavs and more national and international news for Friday, October 31, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Lafayette City-Parish Council will consider on Tuesday a revised plan to the transform a block in Downtown Lafayette into a mixed-use residential-retail-commercial development that doesn’t include giving title to the property to the Lafayette Public Trust Finance Authority, an arrangement the council rejected earlier this month.
Trying to combat the national undertones of Louisiana's U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is traveling the state this week on a sort of pork celebration tour, telling voters about the projects and aid she's delivered to Louisiana.
Ever thought that big, pink Gulf coast shrimp you ordered at the restaurant or bought from the store didn't taste juicy or salty enough? Maybe it wasn't from the Gulf.
The state treasurer won't sign financial documents needed for $200 million in borrowing or for a refinancing of existing debt until he believes they accurately explain the surplus disagreement.
Bill Cassidy voted for 97 percent of the bills signed by Barack Obama.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is joining South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley on her campaign bus tour.
A New Iberia man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a 4-year-old girl and scalding her 3-year-old brother.
A district judge decided Wednesday against sanctioning attorney/school board candidate Dawn Morris for her behind-the-scenes role in a lawsuit against Mark Cockerham.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration may have improperly destroyed records in the state employee health insurance program, in the middle of a heavily-criticized rewrite of benefit plans.
Paper cites the former ADA's "experience as a prosecutor, his demonstrated integrity, and his ideas for reshaping the [DA's] office" in urging voters to support Keith Stutes Nov. 4.
Louisiana officials have sent a letter to the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene un-inviting members of the group who have recently been to ebola-affected West African countries from attending the group’s annual conference in New Orleans next week.
Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints have to find a way to win on the road if they plan to take over first place in the NFC South.
"It is obvious that Louisiana economic performance has not outperformed the South or the United States as a whole and, in fact, has substantially underperformed..."
A state district judge said he will rule Friday on a preliminary injunction to keep some charter schools from receiving $60 million through Louisiana's public school financing formula.