Livingston contractor wants DA removed, judge puts off decision

A former Livingston Parish contractor’s motion to recuse the District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting him for alleged overbilling was delayed for two months Monday to allow the district attorney more time to respond to the 4-month-old motion.

Corey Delahoussaye says the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office should be prohibited from prosecuting him because the office previously provided him with legal advice on issues related to his contract with the parish.

Livingston Parish hired Delahoussaye’s firm, C-Del Inc., in October 2009 to help resolve wetlands permit and mitigation issues lingering from the parish’s cleanup efforts after Hurricane Gustav. The Parish Council terminated its contract with C-Del in August 2011 after raising concerns about the firm’s $2 million in invoices.

Assistant District Attorney Greg Murphy argued in court Monday that then-parish legal adviser Blayne Honeycutt, an appointed assistant district attorney, was not Delahoussaye’s lawyer and, even if he had been, the information Honeycutt gained from Delahoussaye was not used in charging him with fraud and theft.

Murphy said Delahoussaye failed to show how District Attorney Scott Perrilloux, or his office, could not be fair and impartial in prosecuting the case.

John McLindon, Delahoussaye’s attorney, argued that rules of professional conduct require the entire office to be recused if any of its members has a conflict of interest in the case.

McLindon said previous courts have ruled that what matters most in determining whether there was an attorney-client relationship is the client’s subjective belief. When Delahoussaye sought advice, Honeycutt never indicated he was not Delahoussaye’s lawyer, McLindon said.

McLindon also argued that Honeycutt — who is no longer Livingston Parish government’s lawyer but still serves as the appointed legal adviser for other boards in the parish — may be a necessary witness at trial.

McLindon has requested the state Attorney General’s Office handle the prosecution instead.

Judge Brenda Ricks said she had not received Delahoussaye’s motion to recuse, which was filed in March, until Monday morning just before the hearing. Nor had the District Attorney’s Office filed a response.

After hearing arguments on the motion, Ricks set a Sept. 22 hearing date to give the District Attorney’s Office time to put its argument into writing and allow McLindon to respond before a ruling is made.

Ricks, who previously served as a district attorney-appointed legal adviser to various boards in Tangipahoa Parish, said she did not understand how Murphy could argue that Honeycutt was not a member of the District Attorney’s Office or did not report to that office.

Murphy said Honeycutt did report to Perrilloux but dealt only with civil matters and had nothing to do with the office’s criminal cases.

The District Attorney’s Office filed an 81-count bill of information against Delahoussaye in December after a parish grand jury declined to indict him on allegations he falsified timesheets and billing invoices submitted to the parish.

The grand jury vote was 8-2, one vote shy of the nine needed for indictment.

Delahoussaye, who pleaded not guilty on all counts, has called his prosecution “malicious.” He said the District Attorney’s Office, as well as the parish president and council, became hostile toward him after he reported allegedly improper and illegal debris removal work following Hurricane Gustav.

The U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled in binding arbitration June 30 that the Federal Emergency Management Agency did not owe any of the additional $59 million the parish has claimed in cleanup costs. FEMA already awarded the parish about $11 million for the work.

Delahoussaye was accused of playing golf, working out at a health club and taking his children to swim meets during times he claimed to have been working for the parish.

Delahoussaye claims his termination was retaliation for his reporting the allegedly improper work of other contractors. He filed suit in August 2012 in federal court under state whistleblower statutes meant to protect employees who expose improper governmental acts.

Delahoussaye seeks reinstatement of a $379,000 check Parish President Layton Ricks stopped payment on after taking office in January 2012, as well as damages and attorney fees.

The Parish Council — composed of mostly new members since C-Del’s termination — has ordered Ricks to pay the debt and has instructed parish legal adviser Chris Moody to settle the case. Court records show no formal action has been taken in the matter since December.

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen.