Judge drops 3 firms from Hurricane Gustav cleanup lawsuit

A Baton Rouge federal judge on Friday dismissed three engineering firms from a lawsuit filed by Corey Delahoussaye, the embattled former contractor for Livingston Parish who was hired to help with post-Hurricane Gustav cleanup.

Delahoussaye had alleged in federal court that the three firms — Alvin Fairburn and Associates, Professional Engineering Consultants Corp. and International Equipment Distributors Inc. — conspired with the parish government to disgrace him and violate his civil rights.

U.S. District Judge Shelly D. Dick on Friday ruled that Delahoussaye did not show enough evidence of a conspiracy and dropped the three engineering firms from the suit.

Livingston Parish still remains a party in the suit, but Dick dismissed part of the claims against the parish.

Delahoussaye’s company, C-Del Inc., was hired by Livingston Parish in October 2009 to help resolve wetlands permit and mitigation issues lingering from the parish’s efforts to dispose of debris left by Hurricane Gustav in 2008.

Delahoussaye has said his work included monitoring the work of the three engineering firms.

Delahoussaye billed the parish for about $2 million in work, but the then-outgoing Parish Council in August 2011 terminated its contract with Delahoussaye after members began raising questions about his invoices.

Delahoussaye has been accused of playing golf while claiming he was working. He has strongly denied the accusations, saying the country club where he was playing golf listed his golf charges on incorrect days.

Delahoussaye sued the parish and the three firms in August 2012, claiming his contract was halted because he reported illegal and improper work being performed by the three firms.

Delahoussaye’s suit claims the parish and the three firms retaliated against him, as well as defamed him and violated his civil rights under the First and 14th Amendments.

Alvin Fairburn and Associates and Professional Engineering Consultants Corp., in motions to dismiss the suit, said Delahoussaye did not provide enough evidence of a conspiracy against C-Del Inc.

Dick agreed with the two firms and dismissed them, as well as International Equipment Distributors Inc., as parties in the case.

Livingston Parish government and Parish President Layton Ricks filed a motion in September 2012 to dismiss the suit for improper venue. They claimed the suit should be heard in state District Court in Livingston Parish, and not federal court, because Delahoussaye’s contract said any litigation arising from the contract should be handled in state District Court.

Dick dismissed all of Delahoussaye’s unfair trade practice claims against Livingston Parish, saying those claims arise from a parish contract issue and should be handled in state District Court.

Dick, though, said she would still oversee Delahoussaye’s claims of civil rights violations and violations of state law that protect employees from retaliation for exposing improper governmental acts.

Jill Craft, Delahoussaye’s attorney, said her client is weighing appellate options but will move forward with the remaining claims.

“We march forward, especially with our claims against Livingston Parish,” Craft said.

Moody, the Parish Council attorney, said his clients anticipated that Dick would rule as she did Friday.

“I think it’s great news for the parish,” Moody said. “It’s what we expected. The lawsuit makes some pretty outrageous allegations.”

Moody said the parish will file a motion to have the rest of the claims dismissed.

Brad Rhorer, an attorney for Alvin Fairburn and Associates, said he was not surprised by Dick’s ruling.

“The claims were without merit,” he said. “There was no violation of Corey’s civil rights, and there was no agreement to violate Corey’s civil rights.”

Alesia Ardoin, an attorney for Professional Engineering Consultants, said Delahoussaye tried to ensnare the firm into what ultimately amounted to a contract dispute between Delahoussaye and Livingston Parish.

She said Delahoussaye’s conspiracy claims were outlandish.

“The court correctly concluded that those claims were not supported,” she said.

District Attorney Scott Perrilloux in November 2011 began investigating Delahoussaye but in December 2011 turned over the case to federal authorities.

The state Inspector General’s Office began investigating the matter in 2012.