Unsolved Mystery

by Leslie Turk

More cozy relationships emerge from a puzzling land swap court filing.

The local attorney who filed the UL Lafayette horse farm/Jimmy Davidson property exchange agreement with the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court Oct. 20 says he was merely entering the documents into the public record. It's still unclear whether a breach of contract lawsuit to uphold the controversial agreement is forthcoming.

"All I can tell you is the members of BRE-ARD requested I file it in the conveyance records to protect their interests," says Joe Bouligny Jr. BRE-ARD is the entity comprised of local businessmen Jerry Brents and Dan Menard, who were to get 36 acres of the horse farm after they bought attorney Davidson's 4 acres and exchanged them with the university. Authement called off the swap in mid-June ("Cover-Up," Sept. 27), which is why the court filing still has community members, especially those associated with Save the Horse Farm, scrambling for an explanation. The university claims it was blind-sided. "We don't know anything about it," UL spokeswoman Julie Dronet says. "Dr. Authement didn't even know anything about it."

The UL System, whose board approved the dubious land exchange in August 2005, also is in the dark. "We're trying to research that right now," says Associate Provost Brad O'Hara.

In the 34-page filing of Oct. 20, for which he paid $423 cash, Bouligny listed his address as 102 Park West Drive in Scott ' the address of several companies owned by Brents. Bouligny's phone number in the Louisiana Legal Directory is a number answered with the greeting, "The Brents' Companies."

Bouligny maintains that he does not work for former FBI-agent-turned-banker Brents, a who is his father-in-law, but Bouligny says his law office is housed at 102 Park West Drive. Bouligny, whose name appears on several pages of the exchange documents as a witness, says he did not provide legal representation to BRE-ARD in the horse farm exchange. While he appears to represent the controversial group now, Bouligny claims he is unsure whether BRE-ARD had its own representation in drafting the land swap documents, which were drawn up entirely by Davidson.

And just when it seemed this cozy group could not get any closer, The Independent Weekly has learned that George Parker, the appraiser who initially put the $3.25 million value on Davidson's land, is Joe Bouligny's godfather. Each of the properties (the horse farm was appraised by Russ Wilson) was originally valued at $3.25 million, but subsequent appraisals on both the horse farm and Davidson property revealed the university would be squandering $4 million in the land swap. Earlier this year, The Independent successfully sued the university for access to the new appraisal of Davidson's land, claiming it was a public record.

It's difficult to overlook the irony that Authement's close associates (including UL Foundation Board member Davidson) may be posturing to force him to uphold the tainted agreement by filing suit ' especially after Menard told The Independent Weekly last year that he had only the university's best interests at heart. "Everything is ethical, moral and legal," Menard said about the proposed swap, "and to be perfectly honest, I'm trying to help the university if I can."