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Thursday, 21 April 2016 14:13
Send in the clowns on Nungesser-Villere Iraq circus
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by Tom Aswell, PUblisher of LouisianaVoice.com

Iraqi oil scams, critical compliance audits, litigation over the misappropriation of public funds, questionable land deals, botched Wal Mart deal involving Bobby Jindal’s father-in-law.

They’re all just another day at the office for Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser.

When Baton Rouge Advocate reporters Rebekah Allen and Richard Thompson did some good old-fashioned journalistic digging last week to report that hysterical Iraqi oil scam perpetrated by Nungesser and political ally State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere, it threw LouisianaVoice into a scramble mode. http://theadvocate.com/news/politics/15398751-125/lt-gov-billy-nungesser-gop-chairman-roger-villere-work-to-recruit-unlikely-iraq-to-louisiana-busin

In short order we found that Nungesser and Villere had fallen for a similar con run by the same company (Alexandros, a corporation registered in Delaware), but instead of the State of Louisiana and Nungesser and Villere, the targets were the governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands and former Baton Rouge Metro Council member Darrell Glasper. https://louisianavoice.com/2016/04/12/louisiana-has-a-new-clown-prince-but-its-egg-not-a-pie-all-over-lt-gov-nungessers-face-after-succession-of-blunders/

But by the time the light came on in Nungesser’s head, Krusty had already been cued. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzLHU6S4oic

By then, however, it was too late. He had fired off letters to Secretary of State John Kerry, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones and to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, and even issued a press release to (thankfully) only one news outlet, The Washington Post which (again, thankfully) did not run with the story.

Oh, and he also passed himself off as the one man in state government responsible for economic development (quick: someone let Secretary of Economic Development Secretary Donald Pierson know) and he said he was acting on the directive of Gov. John Bel Edwards (he wasn’t).

Sources tell LouisianaVoice that when Edwards heard about the two-man theater of the absurd, he had two state troopers interrupt Nungesser during an address to a group of businessmen and escort him to the governor’s office where he had a little come-to-Jesus meeting with Edwards. We weren’t able to get a confirmation or denial of that story

Nungesser, of course, did the only logical thing: he first blamed his staff, saying the letters should never have reached his desk. He then tried to throw Villere under the bus by saying the state GOP chairman had requested the letters from him. Finally, in an appearance on the Jim Engster radio show, he said the letters were in the middle of a stack of thank-you notes and he didn’t actually read them.

Did he learn his lesson? Apparently not. Even after the Iraqi letter-writing frenzy blew up in his face, he then told another group that Edwards had put him in charge of coastal restoration.

Nice.

Trying to imagine Nungesser sitting at his desk feverishly signing all those thank-you notes, it’s difficult not to visualize Gov. William J. Lepetomane signing a succession of documents handed him by aide Hedley Lamarr in the movie Blazing Saddles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sm1Jyusyoqk

Back during those heady days as Plaquemines Parish President, Nungesser decided he’d like to bring a brand spanking new Wal Mart to the lot at the corner of LA. 23 and LA. 406 in Belle Chasse.

The only problem was there was a moratorium on big box stores on the books that the parish council had passed and by the time it expired about a year later, the tide of opinion on the council had turned against Nungesser’s proposal.

The land in question was—and is—owned by several former employees of Freeport McMoRan, one of whom is Jatinder (Jay) Jolly.

Jolly is the father of Supriya Jindal, wife of former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

After the deal collapsed, only a small building owned by Freeport McMoRan sat on the property but now it has been torn down and only a concrete slab remains, leading to speculation that the Wal Mart proposal may be resurrected.

A 2010 compliance AUDIT conducted by the Legislative Auditor’s Office while Nungesser still served as parish president is especially telling.

A compliance audit is different from a routine annual audit in that a compliance audit is an audit for compliance of laws, regulations and other guidelines that a governmental entity is required to follow.

In short, the compliance audit found that:

The Parish may have violated the parish Charter and a local ordinance by entering into two contracts pertaining to recovery operations.
The Parish Administration may have violated the Local Government Budget Act by not including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants within the Parish budget.
The Parish’s attorney may not be properly approved by the Council as required in the Parish Charter.
The Parish President (Nungesser) may have violated the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics through real estate transactions between his trust and the owners of two Parish vendors.
In that last finding, auditors said in January 2008, the owners of two companies doing business with the parish “were also involved in a private real estate transaction with a trust whose beneficiary is Parish President William Nungesser. These transactions may constitute a violation of the Louisiana Code of Governmental Ethics and therefore will be referred to the Board of Ethics for its consideration.”

Since Nungesser was a political ally of Jindal and the Board of Ethics members are appointed by Jindal, nothing came of that referral.

Nungesser, in typical fashion, saw no fault in his actions and fired off a defiant 12-page letter of response to the state auditor in which he painted himself as the savior of a parish devastated by hurricanes and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He even managed to tell auditors what their job was in his response, saying they had “no authority” to second-guess his decision as to when a state of emergency was ended.

If he could find no fault, members of the Plaquemines Parish Council certainly could (with the exception of Council Chairman Kirk Lepine.)

On Oct. 15, just nine days before the Oct. 24 primary election last fall, the Plaquemines Parish Government filed suit against Nungesser in 25th Judicial District Court in Plaquemines Parish.

The lawsuit accuses Nungesser of causing “the misappropriation of public property and public services” by having Plaquemines Parish employees perform work on private property.

The suit says he ordered parish employees of the Heavy Equipment Department to transport limestone, sand aggregate and asphalt belonging to the parish to two private roads in the parish and to cut trees and dig out a drainage ditch prior to installing a drain pipe with an 8-by-20-foot culvert and then backfill on private property on LA. 23 in Belle Chasse.

Now Lepine has offered up a motion for the parish to drop the lawsuit.

Perhaps it’s only coincidence that Lepine’s stepdaughter works for Nungesser.

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