Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The LAI contract(s)

I've been researching the questionable Louis Armstrong International Airport contract with Picke Construction.  I think I have a much clearer picture of what happened and I want to share what I've found.  I need to file a public records request for the contracts but I just haven't had the time or resources to do that yet.

Here is what I THINK happened.

To begin with...there were two contracts in question.  One went to Picke (not sure how much yet, but I think it was about 3-4 million) and a smaller one went to Benetech.  The Picke contract was to renovate an entire concourse and the Benetech contract was to renovate a bathroom.  I believe the Benetech contract was for an even 1 million dollars.

Both companies defaulted before the work was finished.

I am not sure yet about exactly why the Picke contract went into default but I believe the bond company, Infinity Surety, owned by a guy named George Black of Texas (of course), was found to be a bogus company.

In regards to the Benetech contract, I know a little bit more.  Apparently, Bennett received the 1 million dollars from the city and dispensed 300k of it to subcontractors to begin the work.  However, he then stopped paying the subs (which was his M.O.) and the contract went into default.  He kept the remaining 700k.

Now...here are the issues.  I do not believe the city ever recovered any money back from either Picke or Benetech on either contract.  At this point, I'm not even sure we filed suit against them.  At the very least, both companies should have been reported to the state on ethics issues and both should have been banned from receiving any future city or state contracts.  That didn't happen.  They continued to accrue more contracts including Benetech's federal, 50 million dollar, A.C.E. contract.

Why did our city attorney's office not pursue those companies for restitution and why were they not reported to state officials?

Even more egregious is the issue of how Picke's bonding company, Infinity Surety, qualified for the bid in the first place.

All bonding companies involved in city and state contracts must be approved by what is called the T-list.  The T stands for treasury.  The U.S. Treasury Dept. provides a list of approved bonding companies which city and state governments must refer to when qualifying all bids for construction contracts.

Infinity Surety was never approved on the T-list.   This begs the question,  "How did the Picke (and possibly Benetech) bid ever get approved by the city attorney's office?"

T-list approval is a basic requisite for any bid to qualify.  Whoever approved Picke's bid "overlooked" this basic requirement.

On top of that, I have heard scuttlebutt (hell hath no fury) that a certain city attorney actually took the competing bids for the LAI bathroom renovation job over to Aaron Bennet's house the night before the bid was to be awarded.  Aaron was allowed to tweak Benetech's bid to ensure they got the contract.  That....of course....is very much illegal.

If that rumor is true...it may not only lead to criminal charges it may even lead to civil charges against the city on behalf of the losing bidders.

The damage these bastards have done may haunt us well past the Nagin era.

I will try to get more info. as soon as I can.       


whitmergate said...


Was the recently US Senate confirmed and now sitting Federal District Judge Nanette Jolivette Brown the New Orleans City Attorney during this time ? ... or for that matter during the Meffert/St. Pierre raid of the City Hall treasury ?

Jason Brad Berry said...

She may have been a city attorney but I doubt she is the one in question.

Anonymous said...

home solutions did quite a bit of roofing work at msy as well.

Editilla~New Orleans Ladder said...

Just out of curiosity, does Jim Letten ever call you up for a chat? I have little doubt that he follows the blog.

Oh Snap! Your Word Verification Thingy for this comment? "Driver"

Ricardo said...


Aaron Bennett to plead guilty on Friday! I guess his Hammer session was to give Fradella a preview of things to come.

Anonymous said...

imma gonna confess to being a totally sexist SOB.

The girl (I mean woman) who wants me to step away from the computer not only smells of cookies and wiggles when she walks, she also just finished editing a book on the history of calculus.

She is working on something about ancient Peru, weaving, and language these days. I do listen to her when she talks about it, but I am a simple man and I get distracted.

Now I feel like a teenage girl, writign to you about this. It is a not entirely unpleasant feeling.

Can I say? I love it that smart women are still dumb enough to love men like me.