Inspector General to release horse farm audit, Rickey Hardy to run for state rep and more
INSPECTOR GENERAL RELEASING HORSE FARM AUDIT TODAY
State Inspector General Sharon Robinson, Gov. Kathleen Blanco's appointee pulled into UL Lafayette's land swap fiasco by a concerned resident's complaint, says she'll release a report on the failed deal this morning ("Cover Up," Sept. 27, 2006). "We did conduct an investigation," Robinson says. "It's a full audit report." Hopefully, Robinson's report sheds light on how UL came to be involved in the 2005 suspect swap, whereby 36 acres of its horse farm property were to be exchanged for 4 acres of attorney Jimmy Davidson's Girard Park Drive property. The university claimed both properties were valued at $3.25 million, though subsequent appraisals revealed the horse farm was worth $5.37 million and the Davidson property only $1.5 million ' the latter appraisal obtained only after The Independent Weekly's public records lawsuit last year. Had the deal gone through ' UL President Ray Authement called off the suspicious transaction in June, the same month the suit was filed ' the university stood to lose almost $4 million. But who stood to gain? The inspector general's office works to prevent waste, abuse, fraud and corruption in state government; if Robinson's audit is truly independent (after all, Blanco's husband, Raymond, is a top university official ' and this is Louisiana), we should know more today. Robinson says the report will be available on the IG's Web site, www.doa.louisiana.gov/oig/inspector.htm, by 9:30 a.m.
RICKEY HARDY RUNNING FOR STATE REP
Lafayette Parish School Board member Rickey Hardy says he is running for the District 44 state representative seat being vacated by Wilfred Pierre. Pierre, who has held the post since 1992, is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election.
Hardy, who is in his fifth term on the school board, joins a crowded field of candidates that already includes City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams, Lafayette Planning Commissioner Fred Prejean, former Superintendent of State Police Terry Landry and attorney Derriel McCorvey. In a sign that the jostling has already begun, Hardy's press release takes a not-so-subtle jab at Williams, who has been involved in bitter public disputes with his fellow councilmen, often over racial issues.
"Among my goals as a state representative is to end divisiveness in matters with regard to the public," Hardy says. "Divisiveness that seems to be present, at this time, in our Lafayette Parish Council. This kind of divisiveness cannot be carried over to a state elected office. I pledge to bring a mature level of representation to the people of District 44." ' Nathan Stubbs
SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION SET FOR OCT. 20
The Lafayette Parish School Board has set an Oct. 20 election to decide who will fill the District 7 seat left open following the death of Dr. David Thibodaux. The election will coincide with the state gubernatorial primary and legislative elections.
The school board has already named Mark Cockerham, a 30-year-old UL alum who works with his family's oilfield supply business, as an interim replacement. Cockerham was recommended by Thiboduax's family for the post. He hasn't decided whether he will run in the upcoming election to fulfill the remaining three years of Thibodaux's term. Qualifying for the race is Sept. 4 - 6. ' NS
JOE BROUSSARD INDUCTED INTO CHEF'S HALL OF FAME
City Club at River Ranch Catering Manager Joe Broussard was inducted into the Acadiana Chef's Hall of Fame in a special ceremony at the Acadiana Culinary Classic April 16. The Chef's Hall of Fame was created by the local chapter of the American Culinary Federation in the late 1980s. Over the past 20 years, only three luminaries in the cooking world have been honored ' Tony Chachere, Paul Prudhomme and John Folse. Current Acadiana ACF president Jude Tauzin, Catahoula's Restaurant chef, says Broussard was the obvious choice. "Joe has been an integral part of the organization from the beginning. The reason the Culinary Classic is taking place now is because of him." ' Mary Tutwiler
DUPUIS REPLACES CHRIS WILLIAMS AS LTC REGIONAL DIRECTOR
Phyllis Dupuis replaced Chris Williams as Region Four director of the Louisiana Technical College, a position held for less than six months by Williams before his abrupt reassignment last December ("Sudden Departure" Jan. 3, 2007). Dupuis, an almost 30-year veteran of the organization who has been serving as dean of the Lafayette campus, was the faculty senate's overwhelming favorite for the post when Williams was named to it in July 2006. The position was created at that time as part of a streamlining of the state's community and technical college system.
In addition to the Lafayette campus, LTC's Region Four includes the Crowley, Ville Platte, St. Martinville, Abbeville, Opelousas and New Iberia campuses. ' Leslie Turk
CONGRESS CRACKS DOWN ON COCKFIGHTING
If President Bush signs into law the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, Louisiana's cockfighters will face new legal hurdles before the state even addresses the issue. The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved H.R. 137, making it a felony to transport animals across state lines for the purpose of fighting. The legislative push has been a six-year effort spearheaded by the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS President Wayne Pacelle says, "With the passage of one of the strongest animal protection laws in the nation, we expect to see many cockfighters and dogfighters pack it in and stop flouting the law." Louisiana is the only state where cockfighting is still legal. ' R. Reese Fuller
MORGANZA WEIGHING HEAVILY ON JINDAL'S MIND
The White House has come out against a massive 72-mile levee system planned for central-south Louisiana that would protect upwards to 120,000 residents from the brunt of hurricanes and other storms. U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, a Kenner Republican running for governor, has made the Morganza-to-the-Gulf protection project a priority in the House, stumping on it repeatedly in recent years in Cajun communities. Officials in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, which receive most of the protection, are now warning this could be a major snafu for Jindal as he chases the mansion. Guilt by association, eh? "If that project doesn't pass, I think Jindal is going to have some serious problems down here," says one lawmaker from the region. "He's a Republican like the President, and this is his baby." Remember: This is an area where voters ' in a very public campaign ' decided to impose taxes on themselves to pay for the local match on the project. It's a shared media market as well, including TV, print and radio, all of which have endorsed the Morganza project. In 2003, Jindal lost Terrebonne and Lafourche to Gov. Kathleen Blanco in the runoff, but only by slim margins. He still picked up a respectable 28,000 votes in the two-parish region, which is notable because he lost to Blanco by a mere 54,000 votes. All the pundits and pollsters are expecting another close race this year, so rest assured something as localized as Morganza is weighing heavy on Jindal's mind these days. ' Jeremy Alford
HURRICANES STILL HURTING SCHOOLS
A recent report by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana and the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government says that public schools in the hurricane-stricken Gulf states are either struggling to recover or "filled to capacity."
The study finds that enrollment has not yet recovered to pre-Katrina levels in most of the districts. St. Bernard Parish is suffering the most, with a decline of 57.4 percent in student enrollment; followed by Orleans Parish, down 54.3 percent; Bay St. Louis/Waveland, down 31.9 percent; Biloxi, down 25.3 percent; and Jefferson Parish, down 21.3 percent.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, enrollment has increased 8.3 percent in the East Baton Rouge Parish school districts, leading to schools that are filled to capacity and exacerbating pre-existing shortages in teachers, substitute teachers, and school bus drivers. ' RRF
DUREL TOUTS STATE TRANSPORTATION BILLS
In a press conference on the steps of the state Capitol last week, City-Parish President Joey Durel touted a slate of new transportation funding bills that are being introduced for the upcoming legislative session, beginning April 30. The bills are also being pushed by a coalition spearheaded by the Greater Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. Lafayette state Rep. Joel Robidaux and state Sen. Mike Michot are filing a bill that would redirect motor vehicle sales taxes to local governments to use toward road and drainage improvements. Lafayette state Rep. Don Trahan is pushing an effort to build a state mobility fund for major infrastructure projects that would be bankrolled by drunk driving fines and vehicle registration and inspection fees. All told, Robidaux says the proposed transportation bills could mean an additional $600 million a year dedicated to meet the state's infrastructure needs. ' NS
JEFFERSON SAID WHAT? WHERE!?!
In an ironic twist that could only occur on the bayou or in the Beltway, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security asked a bribery suspect to testify about problems with the criminal justice system. U.S. Rep. William Jefferson, a Democrat from New Orleans, shed light on the dilemmas faced by his hometown during last week's meeting, providing testimony that was quietly peppered with more than a few giggles. Unless you missed all the Mardi Gras parodies and media coverage, the feds have included Jefferson in a corruption probe and reportedly found $90,000 stashed away in his freezer. Of course, the GOP couldn't pass this one up. "The FBI's investigation into William Jefferson's actions might make him an expert in dealing with the criminal justice system, but that's not the expertise that House Democrats should solicit when reviewing this critical issue in Louisiana," says James Quinn, executive director of the state Republican Party. ' JA