DOA’s Dardenne stonewalls our attempts to verify $1.12 million and $246,000 respective defense costs for Painter, delaHoussaye civil suits, but we’ll just piggyback on Zach Parker’s Ouachita Citizen mandamus for similar public records request.

Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, who was sued on September 3, 2019 for blocking the release of attorney invoices to Ouachita Citizen reporter Zach Parker.

UPDATE:  Judge Trudy White ruled in favor of the Division of Administration indicating that only the highlighted individuals listed below in the statue (i.e. Chair and Vice Chair of Joint Committee on the Budget) are entitled to obtain the records prior to the litigation being closed.

 

During a Republican forum for Louisiana Governor held on Thursday, September 5, 2019, businessman Eddie Rispone (R-Baton Rouge) responded to a question entailing how he would go about reining in Louisiana’s runaway spending pattern established during the administration of current Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D-Amite).  We’d like to present his response, and we wish to draw particular attention to what he says from the 0:40 – 1:20 mark of this brief video:


Rispone, from the 0:40 – 1:20 mark of the video above, stresses exactly the extent to which Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Commissioner of Administration, Jay Dardenne, has stonewalled the “Louisiana Checkbook” initiative.

We at Sound Off Louisiana can testify first-hand to the accuracy of Rispone’s commentary regarding Dardenne’s stonewalling!

As long-time subscribers are well-aware, we have followed both the criminal cases and the ensuing civil litigation of former Alcohol and Tobacco Commissioner Murphy Painter and former FBI informant Corey delaHoussaye.  We won’t rehash details of those cases on this post, but we welcome our newer subscribers to get up to speed by reading (and watching Inspector General Stephen Street’s utterly embarrassing performance) after first clicking on this link.

Suffice to say for purposes of this feature that Street’s criminal prosecution of both men collapsed in absolutely spectacular fashion, and he cost Louisiana taxpayers (and in the case of Painter, U. S. taxpayers as well) a staggering amount of money in the process.

In fact, for Painter, Louisiana taxpayers had to fork over $400,000 to Painter for his defense costs as he was acquitted on all 29 counts of misuse of a criminal database.  Two of those counts were for obtaining the mailing addresses of two lobbyists for the alcohol industry in order to mail them sympathy cards upon the passing of their mother (no, that’s not a joke)!  Those counts resulted in the late Federal Judge James Brady inquiring outside the presence of the jury, and this is a verbatim question posed to  the U. S. Attorneys:  “That rises to the level of a Federal offense?”  The U. S. Attorney’s prosecution costs most certainly exceeded $1 million as computer experts were flown in from San Diego to testify, numerous witnesses from out-of-state, expert witness fees, etc.

While delaHoussaye’s criminal prosecution likely cost a small fraction of Painter’s, that case too was a total joke and collapsed in an even bigger fashion than Painter’s as delaHoussaye (who was a confirmed FBI informant) was never even indicted!

As just about every Sound Off Louisiana subscriber knows by now, founder Robert Burns is an extremely harsh critic of Inspector General Stephen Street.  In Burns’ opinion, Street’s lack of any backbone to stand firm and indicate to his superiors (essentially whomever is Governor) that he is not going to prosecute hopeless cases simply to accommodate political vendettas (Painter for refusing to grant a liquor license which entailed an illegal $300,000 exclusivity payment to the venue to serve only Budweiser beer and delaHoussaye for reporting $58 million in FEMA fraud) is costing taxpayers through the nose.

Both Painter and delaHoussaye sued Street and the Office of Inspector General.  Both suits have dragged on for an extensive period of time.  In fact, Painter’s suit has entailed about 18 hearings for peremptory exceptions, etc., and, despite the suit being eight years old, at this stage there still has not even been an answer filed.  In short, the law firm of Taylor Porter, which is a political campaign donating machine, has been like a pig in slop scooping up absolutely massive amounts of Louisiana taxpayer dollars defending Street.

To that end and upon us obtaining what we believe to be credible verbal representations that Street’s civil defense costs pertaininig to Painter now total $1.12 million and delaHoussaye’s civil defense costs now total $246,000, we sought to confirm the figures by making public records requests of Jay Dardenne and the Division of Administration (the same one that Rispone is none too complimentary of in the video above).  Specifically, we have sought to examine the legal invoices so we could add up the dollar amounts ourselves.  Let’s present our public records request below and DOA’s initial response:

Soon thereafter, DOA followed up its initial response with the following flat rejection of our request:

We replied back indicating that DOA could redact out everything except the hours, hourly rate, and extension (i.e. we just want the costs figures). Here’s that request:

DOA responded by digging in its heels as demonstrated by this follow-up to our modified request:

Fortunately for us, Ouachita Citizen reporter Zach Parker seeks substantially similar records for legal services pertaining to an update to features he has published.  Like us, his quest began with his initial request.  Just like us, he got the same identical generic response back.  Again, just like us, he got the same identical follow-up response.

Unlike us, however, Parker then utilized the legal services of Scott Sternberg to send Dardenne and DOA a demand letter indicating a drop-dead date of August 30, 2019 for an indication that the records would be forthcoming.  Just like us, Sternberg indicated a willingness for Parker to accept redacted invoices so that merely the dollar amounts would be available for tabulation.  We want to highlight Sternberg’s final commentary in his demand letter:

When DOA failed to indicate a willingness to provide the records by the August 30, 2019 date, Parker filed a Writ of Mandamus on September 3, 2019 seeking to force DOA to provide him with the requested records.  The next day, September 4, 2019, Judge Trudy White, to whom the case was assigned, set the matter for hearing as demonstrated in the following order:

 

We were informed late Tuesday (September 10, 2019) that the hearing has been rescheduled for Monday, September 16, 2019.  We will be there, and we are obviously pulling strongly for Parker and the Ouachita Citizen to prevail in order that we can tabulate the defense cost figures for Painter and delaHoussaye after we get our invoices upon Parker getting his.

We go out of our way to try and substantiate anything we’re told verbally, and we really don’t like even reporting numbers which have not been substantiated.  In this instance, however, we’re making an exception and publishing what we’ve been told are the approximate figures for Painter and delaHoussaye.  We welcome our subscribers to take them at face value given DOA’s staunch stonewalling in permitting us to verify the figures.

As for Rispone’s commentary in the video above from the 0:40 – 1:20 mark, he could not possibly be more spot-on if he tried, and the bottom line, as Rispone likely knows, is that they don’t want taxpayers knowing how much money loose cannons like Street are costing us.  After all, all we do is pay the freaking bills via our tax dollars!  The very nerve of us thinking we may have a right to scrutinize all the attorneys at the legal pig-slop trough, especially the extent to which some may be at that trough benefitting from past political campaign contributions.

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