By Bill Lodge
Advocate staff writer
August 11, 2012
The smoldering feud between ousted hurricane cleanup monitor Corey Delahoussaye and Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks burned its way Thursday into Baton Rouge federal court.
Delahoussaye and his C-Del Inc. sued Livingston Parish, Ricks and three cleanup contractors hired by the parish in the wake of Hurricane Gustav’s rampage in September 2008.
Those contractors are Alvin Fairburn and Associates, which Delahoussaye referred to as Ricks’ former employer; Professional Engineering Consultants Corp. and International Equipment Distributors Inc.
Through attorney Jill L. Craft, Delahoussaye said in his suit that he questioned some billings of the three cleanup contractors in his firm’s reports to parish, state and federal officials.
In return, the Livingston Parish Council canceled C-Del’s monitoring contract in September.
Delahoussaye said the contract cancellation and Ricks’ repeated refusal this year to pay $379,517 still owed for monitoring services amount to improper retaliation against a whistleblower. C-Del received more than $1.8 million prior to the dispute.
The argument is complicated by the fact that Delahoussaye was a political ally of former Parish President Mike Grimmer, who lost his bid for re-election to Ricks last year.
Telephone requests for comment on Delahoussaye’s allegations were left Thursday at the offices of Ricks, AFA, PEC and IED.
“We obviously can’t speak for the other defendants, but C-Del’s lawsuit is certainly frivolous as far as it concerns our company,” said Dan Davis, director of business development and in-house counsel for IED. “Any claim that IED has ever harmed C-Del in any way is absurd.”
Davis added: “IED faithfully performed the debris removal work that Livingston Parish directed us to undertake following Hurricane Gustav.”
Calls to Ricks, AFA and PEC were not returned.
Delahoussaye said in his suit that Ricks issued an “unauthorized stop payment order” on Delahoussaye’s final check for $379,517 in January, hours after Ricks “took office as parish president.”
Less than a day later, Delahoussaye said, Ricks issued an unauthorized check for $453,000 to AFA, “Ricks’ prior employer.”
In November, Delahoussaye was deposed as a witness in a $52 million civil suit filed by IED against Livingston Parish for alleged nonpayment of cleanup bills.
Delahoussaye invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify against himself more than 60 times.
Delahoussaye testified, however, that he had been an informant for the FBI until Nov. 3.
Another of Delahoussaye’s attorneys, John S. McLindon, said in December he was confident that a federal investigation would clear Delahoussaye of any alleged wrongdoing.
Davis, IED’s in-house counsel, said Thursday the firm has not yet required Livingston Parish to file a response to its civil suit. Instead, Davis said, “We are working closely with the parish to pursue all available reimbursement from” the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Delahoussaye has been scrutinized by parish and state investigators.
District Attorney Scott Perrilloux announced in 2011 that he turned over to federal authorities the results of an investigation of Delahoussaye by his office, which serves Livingston, St. Helena and Tangipahoa parishes.
Delahoussaye referred to Perrilloux’s investigation as a “political witch hunt.”
Livingston Parish has a dispute with another of the cleanup contractors monitored by Delahoussaye.
In April, the Parish Council voted to sue AFA, alleging the Denham Springs firm overbilled the parish $312,000 for roadwork planning. The council also chastised Ricks for his earlier payment of $453,000 to AFA.
In June, the council ordered Ricks to pay $373,000 of Delahoussaye’s final claim against the parish.
Ricks refused to sign that check. He said he wants the Louisiana Inspector General’s Office to investigate more than $1.8 million already paid to Delahoussaye.