Is Joel Robideaux’s campaign manager trolling Joey Durel?

by Walter Pierce

Lafayette political operative Joe Castille administers The Horse Farm Facebook page, which appears to have taken recent zest in casting a negative spotlight on the city-parish president.

Joe Castille has administered The Horse Farm page on Facebook for three and a half years. Nearly 3,000 Facebook users including this writer have at various times in the interim “liked” the page, probably assuming as I did that it is what it presents itself to be: a pro-Horse Farm page dedicated to seeing the 100-acre property become a first-class central park for the city of Lafayette. And for most of the life of the page it has been just that, with infrequent posts that have tracked developments of the park, mainly by sharing media reports on the property’s progress.

Joe Castille

But the page began charting a curious new course beginning in late April after it was reported that City-Parish President Joey Durel had been serving as president of the nonprofit group that conducts the weekly Saturday farmers market at the Horse Farm. It was an unpaid position consistent with Durel’s well-publicized support for converting the former UL agricultural property into a city park. Durel even acknowledged during the brief reporting cycle that he incurred personal expenses in helping manage the nonprofit and that he served as a private citizen, not in his role as mayor.

When the first report of his association with the group was published on April 23 by The Daily Advertiser, which in turn was reporting on a local resident questioning Durel’s role with the nonprofit at the City-Parish Council meeting two days prior — and Councilman Jared Bellard giving aid and comfort to the crackpot conspiracy, as he is wont to do — The Horse Farm page on Facebook shared the article with some questions of its own: “Joey head of a new non-profit he created that’s taking money from the Farmer’s Market at the Horse Farm? Who authorized this? When did this happen and why didn’t anyone know about this until now?”

My first thought was, you’re the freakin’ Horse Farm, why didn’t you know?! But whatever.

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Durel has since resigned from the nonprofit so that, as he told KLFY, the conspiracy theorists could “sleep better at night.” A wiseacre, that Joey Durel, who also said he resigned because the kerfuffle was casting the Horse Farm — the actual place, not the Facebook page — in a negative light. But the posts on The Horse Farm Facebook page continued, with more shares of stories and more questions that appear to suggest something unethical or nefarious by Durel:

Joey Durel has resigned from the non-profit he created to run the Farmer’s Market at the Horse Farm. Basic questions have not yet been answered -- why wasn’t the money going to the Lafayette Central Park non-profit that was contracted to develop the property? When and how was this authorized? How much money has been collected and what has it been spent on? If the questions are just coming from “malcontents”, as he says, why did he resign?

A rather lengthy discussion in the reply section of the post ensues, with Geoff Daily, a local tech entrepreneur, and Molly Richard, who does marketing for the Horse Farm, chiming in at length and for all intents capably answering Castille’s suggestive questions.

Castille, who has worked on several local political campaigns and currently serves as state Rep. Joel Robideaux’s campaign manager, downplays suggestions that he’s trolling Durel.

“I’m just asking questions,” Castille says. “I don’t think there’s anything that says [Durel has] enriched himself. I don’t think there’s anything that claimed anything other than who authorized it and when did it happen.”

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We reached out to Robideaux, who is running to replace Durel as city-parish president in the October election, to find out if he’s aware of his campaign manager’s role with The Horse Farm Facebook page. Robideaux is understandably up to his neck in legislative business at the Capitol in Baton Rouge, however, and we’ve yet to hear back from him.

Meanwhile, EB Brooks, director of Lafayette Central Park, Inc., the nonprofit formed in 2013 to oversee design, development, fundraising and construction of the park, says she has long been frustrated by Castille and his Horse Farm Facebook page. Brooks was among a small, dedicated group of citizens who fought to prevent the property from becoming a commercial real estate development nearly a decade ago and once co-administered a “Save the Horse Farm” group on Facebook.

“I’ve asked Joe several times to turn the page over the Lafayette Central Park and he refuses,” Brooks says, adding that she has also contacted Facebook but has gotten little help from the site in her effort to wrest control of the page away from Castille.