Louisiana State Rep. John E. “Johnny” Guinn, the newest member of AFP’s “takers dozen.”
On Tuesday, August 14, 2018, Louisiana State Representative John E. “Johnny” Guinn, R-Jennings, became the eighth member inducted into Americans for Prosperity’s (AFP) “Takers Dozen.” In inducting Guinn, AFP cited these votes on Guinn’s part that earned him that induction:
Hiking Louisiana’s sales tax by 25%.
Voting to tax online purchases.
Voting to raise taxes on small businesses.
Voting to extend a sales tax that residents were promised would be temporary.
We’d like to take this opportunity to educate our subscribers on another crucial (and illegal) means for which Guinn has openly advocated “taking.” That would be the illegal practice of shill bidding at auctions.
In October of 2009, then-Rep. Damon Baldone, D-Houma, attended a real estate auction of a home in Thibodaux which was on the National Register of Historic Places and which was being auctioned by auctioneer Barbara Bonnette. Baldone, who is an attorney and real estate broker, registered to bid at the auction, and he purported that, though there were numerous onlookers, only three (3) bidders registered, and each bidder was required to provide a $50,000 certified check to be a qualified bidder.
Baldone represented that he personally knew the bidder who bid $650,000 and that he was a serious bidder who would purchase the property. Accordingly, Baldone had no qualms outbidding him and raised the bid to $675,000. What happened next is the subject of some debate, but Baldone asserts that Bonnette stated from the stand that Baldone’s bid of $675,000 had been topped by a bidder, whom he could not see nor hear, who was purported to bid $700,000. The bid assistants then approached Baldone and placed pressure upon him to up his bid to $725,000. Baldone refused and indicated that they could go ahead and sell it to the $700,000 bidder because he had reached his hard limit and emphatically declared himself to be “out.”
What happened next is truly bizarre (to be extremely kind), but nobody disputes that Bonnette stated, “It turns out that $700,000 bid was not from a qualified bidder, so sir (Baldone), you’re back in at $675,000.” Baldone had a strong suspicion that he was the victim of a shill bid, which entails having a plant in the bidding audience who jacks up the bid for the sole purpose of increasing the bid on the part of a legitimate bidder. Actually, if Baldone was correct in his assertion, he was actually the victim of “phantom bidding,” which has been described as the “evil cousin” of shill bidding, and is a technique (illegally) deployed by auctioneers to (illegally) jack up the bid when there are few bidders but tons of curious onlookers.
We should point out at this time that auctions are often conducted with a “buyer’s premium.” That’s how the auctioneer is compensated. In the auction referenced above, the buyer’s premium was 10%. Hence, when Baldone bid $675,000, he was actually bidding $742,500 ($675,000 x 1.10). Baldone was furious at what happened, which he described as “down right theft” (and to which Robert Burns, a real estate auctioneer at the time and founder of Sound Off Louisiana, concurs). Baldone quickly realized that, if the phantom bid he alleges transpired was in fact deployed and had succeeded, it was an attempt to grab $55,000 right out of his pocket ($50,000 added bid plus 10% buyer’s premium).
Needless to say, he was not happy! Accordingly, he filed HB-1439 in the 2010 Legislative Session to criminalize the practice of shill bidding. The Chairman of the Louisiana Auctioneer Licensing Board (LALB) at the time, James “Kenneth” Comer, was very upset at Baldone filing the bill. Accordingly, he insisted that Executive Director Sandy Edmonds, during times that he wasn’t permitting her to commit blatant payroll fraud by relaxing on beaches, visiting Disneyworld, sightseeing in New York, etc., call auctioneers throughout the state to have them show up and testify against the bill. When Edmonds called Burns, who was a then-LALB member, he first told her that what she was doing was an ethics violation in that Comer, as an LALB member, could not lobby auctioneers to testify for or against a pending bill. Burns also informed Edmonds that he would be showing up in his individual capacity and testifying in favor of Baldone’s bill. Burns stated his frustration to Edmonds at how pandemic the illegal practice of shill bidding is and that it was just a matter of time before a politician was victimized and took that type of action.
True to his word, Burns showed up and testified FOR the bill. Here’s video of his testimony:
Burns testifies, in his individual capacity as an auctioneer, IN FAVOR of the bill.
Bonnette also showed up and thoroughly embarrassed herself to the point that, as evidenced in the video just linked, she had to be interrupted by the chairman and told, “that’s not relevant.” Her embarrassing performance was followed by convicted felon Marvin Henderson’s testimony against the bill wherein he named consignors who have consigned equipment to his auctions for which he deployed shill bidding.
Although he did not testify on the bill, Guinn was in the audience mingling with the 19 auctioneers and associates whose names were read into the record in opposition to the bill. Immediately after the bill was involuntarily deferred (effectively killing the bill) by a vote of 8-3, led by then Rep. Bodi White, R-Central, Guinn confronted Burns in the hallway, and he was nothing short of irate! Guinn, who was accompanied by approximately 10 auctioneers who were equally irate at Burns, chose to reference Burns as “a sack of s@!@” and further told him to “go straight to hell.” Because Guinn opted to place his right index finger on Burns’ shoulder as he made those points, upon the advice of Burns’ attorney, Burns filed a police report containing the statements Guinn made, which included Guinn’s own admission that, “hell yes, I’ve run up the bid,” and excused the action as being necessary to, “put clothes on my kids’ backs.” At the August 2, 2010 LALB meeting, Guinn stated his “embarrassment” at Burns’ testimony. Auctioneer Joe Massey took it a step further and stated that Burns had “stabbed me in the back.” At the same meeting, Henderson, the convicted felon, voiced his extreme anger at Burns.
On August 30, 2010, Guinn sent a letter to then-Gov. Jindal indicating that “numerous auctioneers throughout Louisiana” requested that Jindal remove Burns from the LALB. Jindal wasted little time acquiescing to Guinn’s request, and Burns was terminated from the LALB on September 10, 2010 after refusing Jindal’s prior request that Burns voluntarily resign.
While Guinn was busy seeking Burns’ ouster by Jindal, Comer, the then-LALB Chairman, was also busy filing an ethics complaint against Burns for his testimony. That complaint was summarily dismissed upon the ethics investigators viewing Burns’ testimony above and quickly concluding that Burns was testifying in his own capacity as an auctioneer and not in his capacity as an LALB member. Though Burns mentioned the fact he was an LALB member, that was merely a statement of fact, and at no time did Burns ever state what the LALB’s position on the shill bidding initiative was (though they had taken a vote to issue a resolution in opposition to HB-1439 for which Burns was the only dissenting vote).
So, we at Sound Off Louisiana certainly believe AFP made a wise selection of Guinn as a “taker” and hope this feature has enlightened our subscribers as to just how resolved not only Guinn, but the vast majority of auctioneers in Louisiana, stand fully prepared to go to the mat illegally taking money from auction bidders through the illegal practice of shill (or phantom) bidding. If folk are still brave enough to bid at Louisiana auctions, we recommend they watch out for those ghostly shill and phantom bidders. They’re known to reach right into your pocket and grab your cash!
We will have a second installment to this feature on Guinn to reflect his antics on the floor of the House of Representatives entailing Sen. Milkovich’s SB-260 during the 2018 Louisiana legislative session. We believe you’ll find that feature fascinating.
As a concluding remark, our recent feature on high school football coach Jack Goode has exploded in popularity after being spotted by Lincoln Parish blogger Walter Abbot. Accordingly, we updated that feature with the following insert:
In reading Parker’s article, it’s VERY obvious that three elected officials [the Ouachita Parish School Board President, Jerry Hicks, (see center seated gentleman for photo), Ouachita Parish Sheriff Jay Russell, and Fourth JDC District Attorney Robert Tew] are treating this as a (pun intended) political football which nobody wants to touch.
Guess any efforts to keep all this hush-hush have failed and will likely provide valuable ammunition for any challengers to their offices in upcoming elections.
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