As Haney addressed the council, enumerating points with his pen in the air, Langlinais sat to his right slumped in his chair, frowning at what he has deemed a "conspiracy" and a "witch hunt." The parish president claims the audit, initially requested by four council members, was politically motivated. In particular, he has singled out Councilman Bernard Broussard, who is considering a run for parish president in the fall. Another councilman who initiated the audit, Ray Fremin, is running for state representative.
Following the council's vote to begin its own investigation, Langlinais delivered an impassioned three-minute speech that ended in what some council members regarded as an attempt at intimidation. "Is this a two-edged sword?" Langlinais asked Haney. "There are some possible improprieties by some council members ... some issues not discussed in the audit ... that I feel I should have the opportunity to address."
"I felt he was throwing us a threat out there," says Councilman Glen Romero. Haney directed Langlinais to bring his information to the criminal investigation unit of the State Police. "I'd like nothing better than that," Langlinais replied as he abruptly left the meeting.
The Independent Weekly has since learned that Langlinais' threats are not limited to elected officials. Last week, parish employees brought claims of intimidation by Langlinais to council members and Haney. Several sources in parish government confirm that multiple parish employees are worried about the security of their jobs. Citing an environment of harassment and intimidation, the council directed Haney to appoint an attorney who will be available to employees who feel they are being intimidated.
"We're trying to prevent [Langlinais] firing employees," Assistant DA Eric Duplantis says. "It would result in another series of problems. It's important that the day to day work of the parish be done while this whole commotion is going on."
Following receipt of the state audit in March, Haney's office subpoenaed all 1,800 pages of the report's background documents from the legislative auditor's office, including the interviews with council members, parish employees, parish contractors and Langlinais. Haney's office then brought in investigators from the state police who are retracing the footsteps of the auditors. According to Duplantis, the state police will "reinterview a substantial amount of the people who were interviewed by the legislative auditor to see if their experiences are consistent."
Duplantis explains that the auditors were looking for budgetary violations, but the DA's office has a different role. "The legislative auditor may stop at some point and can't go further. We can't do that. Once you start asking people questions you don't know where it's going exactly. If we're talking to someone and they tell us multiple pieces of information, we can't stop; we have to go wherever the evidence goes. We don't know for sure, but we believe we'll be in a position to take to the grand jury the results of the investigation by our office and the state police. At that point the grand jury decides if there's sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges."
Recovering the public's money is a council priority; the audit detailed lost revenues to the parish from 2000 and 2006. Langlinais received $26,918 in meal and hotel reimbursements while he was also collecting a per diem from the parish and the Police Jury Association, for meals and hotel stays in advance. Between 2002 and 2005, the parish public works department provided at no charge to parish residents, including Langlinais' daughter, approximately $156,707 in pipe, dirt, gravel and labor. The audit also found that attorney Shane Romero was paid $35,250 in undocumented retainer fees from an oral contract between him and Langlinais (plus $343,879 through the parish's risk management fund during part of the contract's duration), and $4,785 in duplicate invoices for his services. Romero is the son of term-limited state Rep. Errol "Romo" Romero and is running for his father's seat in the Legislature. Additionally, Langlinais used $8,825 of public funds for donations, employee luncheons, tickets and charity donations.
All told, Langlinais could be responsible for reimbursing more than $500,000 out of his own pocket, according to Broussard. Under the terms of the charter, explains assistant DA Eric Duplantis, "if money is spent without proper authorization, the person who authorized it without the correct permission has to pay it back. So that action will be either through discussion with the person who owes the money or through a lawsuit." Haney is requesting help from the state attorney general's office, or if the AG is unavailable, another district attorney or outside counsel to assist the parish council in recovering this money. To date, Langlinais has paid back $1,895.46 to the council and $618 to the Police Jury Association. Shane Romero returned $7,912.46 to the parish, according to Iberia Parish Finance Director Kimberly Segura.
Since the March 5 receipt of the audit, council members have been in a quandary over how to proceed with the audit's recommendations to remedy potential charter violations. However, at last week's meeting they decided to begin the investigation contingent on Haney providing guidelines, which he says should be ready for the next regular meeting on April 25. Section 2-08 of the parish's Home Rule Charter has a provision for "investigations into the affairs of the Parish government and related conduct of any Parish official, officer, employee, department, office or agency and for this purpose may subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, take testimony and require product of evidence." While some council members were initially hesitant to take on the role of investigative body, the council unanimously voted to put the investigation in motion. "Congress does this all the time," Duplantis says. "But in this parish, nobody's done this before. There's no blueprint. And it's always hard to be the first to do something. I think they should be nervous about it."
While the council's inquiry will have a wide scope, an independent attorney will be appointed to prevent interference with the DA's criminal investigation. "What if they have a witness who is starting to talk about something that is clearly a problem?" Duplantis asks. "Do you Mirandize people? My feeling is when they are forming this investigative committee, an attorney would have to be part of the process, probably a prosecutor from the AG's office who is not part of our investigation, but who would know to say 'Stop, don't answer that.'"
Some council members have been waiting a long time for this process to begin. Broussard, for one, is ready. "If asked by my fellow council members, I have no problem chairing the investigative committee. There are things that I thought the audit would address that were not in it. Mosquito Control [Contractors Inc.] ' that was a contract I thought the audit would address. But it wasn't even mentioned. It's going to get very nasty. But if we don't finish what we're doing, it will set up a very bad business environment for Iberia Parish. We're at a crossroads. Someone needs to say enough is enough. This won't go away by not looking at it."
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 23, 2014:
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”