from The INDsider

Skinner running for DA, PHI posts annual losses and more


Mike Skinner's campaign for district attorney in the 15th Judicial District unofficially got under way last weekend. Former U.S. attorney for the Western District, Skinner passed out lapel stickers for his campaign at the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce's Building Community Conference at Toledo Bend. He served as U.S. attorney from 1993 to 2000 and chaired the Louisiana Democratic Party from 2003 to early 2005. He is in private practice with Onebane Law Firm.

The election will be held in October 2008, and Skinner says he won't make a formal announcement until after this fall's elections. He will face incumbent DA Mike Harson, should Harson seek re-election. The 15th Judicial District includes Acadia, Lafayette and Vermilion parishes. ' Leslie Turk


In its annual SEC filing, Lafayette-based helicopter service company Petroleum Helicopters Inc. reported a net loss of $700,000 for 2006, compared to $14.2 million in net earnings posted in 2005. In addition to a debt restructuring charge of $12.8 million, PHI cited reduced revenue and increased costs related to its pilots' strike as reasons for the drop. The company stated it expects operating losses to continue through the first quarter of 2007 as it continues to recover from the labor shortage.

The pilots union called off its strike in November, and under a new court-approved agreement, striking pilots are being returned to work in phases through May. The report notes that PHI's pilot workforce is now back up to 648, compared to the 597 working pilots at the start of the strike. Pilots are continuing to work without a labor contract, which company and union officials have failed to negotiate for almost three years now. A federal court is scheduled to hear ongoing company claims that the union engaged in bad faith bargaining, as well as a counter suit from the union on Nov. 7. ' Nathan Stubbs


Former Sen. John Breaux hasn't decided whether he will be a candidate in this year's governor's race, but the state Republican Party is already launching a pre-emptive strike against his potential candidacy. The GOP began airing an attack ad titled "Above The Law" in four major markets (including Lafayette) across the state last week. The ad features aerial shots of Breaux's East Shore mansion in Maryland and states that Breaux is no longer a legal citizen of Louisiana and ineligible to run for governor. "Breaux may be wealthy and powerful, but he's not above the law," the ad concludes.

Attorneys and aides to the former senator have maintained that Breaux still owns property in his hometown of Crowley and that Louisiana has traditionally upheld a liberal interpretation of citizenship. The state constitution says that to run for statewide office, a candidate must have been a Louisiana citizen for the preceding five years. The issue will likely be settled in court, if Breaux enters the race. ' NS


Stroud's Shady Oaks, famous for steaks and fine wines, has closed. An Acadiana institution, the restaurant's heyday was during the oil boom of the 1970s. Stroud's was a study in contrasts ' the walls of the Abbeville restaurant held collections of fine European Boehm porcelain figurines and Lalique crystal, while ketchup and mustard bottles contained in aluminum pie tins topped the tables. Stroud's wine collection was legendary. Featured in Wine Spectator, Dwight Stroud had connections to some of California's finest vintners and imported Premier Cru wines from France. His steaks were hand chosen, seasoned with a secret concoction, then fried in rendered beef fat, a delectable and heart-stopping combination. The restaurant moved to Kaliste Saloom in Lafayette, before winding up on Industrial Parkway in 1988. Dwight's son Marty Stroud took over in 1990. Marty Stroud is now cooking at Mazen's Grill on Johnston Street. ' Mary Tutwiler


New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson signed into law a ban on cockfighting, making Louisiana the only state where it's still legal. As to be expected, The Advocate reported that the Humane Society of the United States, which led efforts last year to ban cockfighting in Louisiana, plans a new all-out assault to outlaw the sport here. Last year, a bill to outlaw cockfighting passed the Senate but died in the House Agricultural Committee. Louisiana's animal cruelty law, RS 14:102.1 states: "For purposes of this Section, fowl shall not be defined as animals," making cockfighting legal.

Despite being outlawed in every state, the sport still thrives. The Seattle Times recently published a feature about cockfighting activities in its region. The title: "Cockfighting, its loyal fans keep fighting to the death." ' R. Reese Fuller


After apparently hiring former New Iberia Mayor Bobby Bodin to be the Iberia Parish chief administrative officer on Feb. 14, the Iberia Parish Council decided that he did not meet the conditions stipulated for the March 15 hire date and voted to withdraw a resolution that would have ratified his position. Bodin, who worked as an independent AFLAC insurance agent and sold policies to Iberia Parish Government employees, collected residuals from the policies. The initial terms of Bodin's hire included disassociation with AFLAC to avoid problems with the state Board of Ethics. While Bodin resigned from AFLAC March 12, he only cancelled the residuals on the policies he sold to Iberia Parish Government employees.

"It's my understanding that the ethics board says he cannot receive any residuals from any AFLAC account he sold, whether it be to parish employees or not, because that would be a violation of the Governmental Code of Ethics since we have the contractual relationship with AFLAC," says Carolyn Nix, Iberia Parish Council administrative secretary. Assistant District Attorney Eric Duplantis told the council that because Bodin had not totally disassociated himself from AFLAC, he did not meet the stipulated conditions. While Bodin received eight votes to recommend his hire in February, 11 councilmen voted against him last week. ' MT


Lafayette attorney Hank Perret is leaving his downtown law firm to join local oilfield construction company Dynamic Industries as in-house general counsel. The hire is a significant coup for Dynamic's CEO Mike Moreno. "Hank is one of the hardest working and most respected lawyers in Louisiana," says Lafayette attorney Frank Neuner. "Convincing him to give up his law firm, private practice and numerous clients is a major accomplishment for Mike, and together they will be a formidable duo in the business world."

Perret, a 52-year-old commercial litigator who has been practicing for three decades ' 20 years with Perret Doise ' chairs the Louisiana Board of Ethics. He is vice chairman of the board at Our Lady of Lourdes and co-founded the Community Foundation of Acadiana and Crossroads Catholic Book Store ' both of which are nonprofits. He also founded the Miles Perret Center in memory of his late son.

Perret's departure comes on the heels of a similar move by his partner, Dennis Doise. Doise, 58, is joining River Ranch Development Co. and its related entities as in-house general counsel later this month. Both attorneys will serve in of counsel capacities with their former law firm, and Doise says no decision has been made on whether the 20-attorney firm will retain its moniker. ' LT


A band of coastal scientists and engineers has written an open letter to Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the commander of the Army Corps of Engineers calling for a re-examination of the state's coastal restoration effort. The group, which includes top coastal researchers from LSU, Tulane, UL Lafayette, and the University of California at Berkeley, stresses that the state has placed too much of an emphasis on levee construction and could exacerbate wetlands erosion and storm surge in some areas. "Current federal and state plans contain several positive elements but, at bottom, rely on an engineering approach that carries high economic, structural and environmental risk, and threatens the sustainability of the very ecosystem we are all trying to save," the group writes. "The purpose of this letter is to alert you to these concerns and to offer to assist in resolving them." ' NS


MonaVie, a premium health drink featuring the acai berry ' touted as "the Viagra of the Amazon" ' is claiming to be "the new Cajun food" taking Lafayette by storm. In a recent press release, MonaVie reps cite Lafayette as being the hub of "Cajun Heartland, USA" and that "great food, hospitality and fun are the staples of this culture." The release quotes Dr. Chris Cormier, a local chiropractor and distributor of MonaVie, as saying Cajun food traditionally doesn't include many fruits. "Adopting MonaVie into the tradition of Cajun cuisine in Lafayette, Louisiana, undoubtedly needed to happen," he says. But don't try ordering a round of this new Cajun delicacy the next time you're eating crawfish at Dwight's. MonaVie is only sold through private distributors for $45 a bottle. ' NS


Milton's famous family-owned NuNu's, aka W. Broussard's Supermarket, is expanding with an 18,000-square-foot store on Hwy. 89 in Youngsville. "It's a big step for us," says owner Walter "NuNu" Broussard of the business that started 60 years ago as a dancehall. Scheduled to open in June, the new store is about six miles from the existing location ' a 6,000-square-foot specialty Cajun grocer on Espasie Drive. Near Copper Meadows subdivision, NuNu's Fresh Market will feature an expanded meat department that includes its popular jalapeno chicken sausage, chicken patties and bacon wrapped chicken stuffed with pineapple or jalapenos. It'll also have a deli and extensive produce selection. The new location is just a couple of miles from Sugar Mill Pond, and by early summer 2008 the local store will square off against the traditional neighborhood development's 60,000-square-foot Rouses, which also has a large selection of Cajun meats.

Founded in Houma in 1960 by Anthony J. Rouse Sr., Rouses is the largest independent grocery retailer in the state with 15 Louisiana stores. Construction on the Sugar Mill Pond location is scheduled to begin this summer at the intersection of Hwy. 92 and the new Youngsville Parkway. ' LT


Members of Blueprint Louisiana, a statewide political reform organization founded by several prominent businessmen, are making the rounds to talk radio and newspaper editorial boards announcing their intentions for the upcoming elections. Blueprint ' the subject of a Feb. 20 cover story in The Independent Weekly ' now plans to hold nine regional planning sessions in April, including one in Lafayette, in advance of releasing a slate of suggested state government reforms, due in June. The group says it will not directly contribute to state candidates; rather, it will fund its own ad spots pointing out which candidates support its agenda ' and which do not. Lafayette businessman Matt Stuller, one of the group's founders, told The Advocate, "We will be very stern and we will be very punitive." Blueprint will also help fund lobbying efforts to help push reforms through the state legislature and hopes to dissolve in two years, after meeting its goals. ' NS