Monday, July 15, 2013

It's despicable...

...say it out loud in your best Daffy Duck's fun...

When I first started covering the Wisner chronicles, I pointed out a moment in NOLA history when then city councilperson, Marlin Gusman, told a Wisner heir that the city was going to "take over the whole thing" in 2014 when the trust dissolves.

I went on to speculate about what might happen if the trust were to dissolve and how it would be not only detrimental to the Wisner heirs and the other trustees but how it could be a mistake for the City in the long run.  I postulated that Mayor Landrieu had designs on carving up the land and selling off the City's share simply to get a quick, lump sum of cash into city coffers while he was in office.

Well...I was wrong.  Even though Gusman and Landrieu are trading barbs at the moment, it seems I should have listened to Gusman's original sentiment in regards to what Landrieu's true intent for the trust was.  I sadly underestimated Mayor Landrieu's chutzpah.  He is now trying to take over the whole thing...I mean the whole damn thing.

Last Thursday, the City filed a motion in response to the Wisner heir's motion for partial summary judgement on wether or not the Trust was perpetual and if the Mayor, in his role as Trustee, has to obtain the advice of the Committee before he spends the City's portion of the money.  Mayor Landrieu and the City of New Orleans' counter-motion not only claims the Trust is dissolved, it claims the City and the Mayor are the sole heirs to the Wisner Trust properties and any monies generated by the assets.

That would exclude not only the family heirs from their 40% ownership, it also eliminates Tulane, LSU (Charity Hospital), and the Salvation Army's interest in the Trust.

He wants it all....and he's going all in.

Aside from the issues we've already broached here on AZ:  the Mayor's claim that the Trust is a public body, his claim that he is not required to let the Committee review projects on which he wants to spend the City's portion of the money, et al., Mayor Landrieu is now asserting that the heirs aren't really heirs.  He is now making the argument that the only "heirs" to the land were the immediate family members to Edward Wisner after he the motion describes it...the "original Wisner Ladies".  This refers to Rowena and Elizabeth, his daughters and Mary Jane Wisner, Edward's widow.

But then it goes one step further, the countermotion also claims the Compromise Agreement should be nullified citing fidei commissa, a legal term that allows a grantor to transfer property to a grantee through a third party.
The first Louisiana trust laws represented a very narrow exception to the longstanding rule that substitutions and fidei commissa were void and against public policy.  In light of this strong policy, these laws have been rigidily construed.  Purported trusts that failed to satisfy the demanding requirements of the trust statutes have been struck down as prohibited substituions.  Moreover, because these illegal conveyances violate public policy, they are absolute nullities that may be challenged at any time.  An action to challenge an absolute nullity does not prescribe and may not be ratified by the parties.  
If I understand this correctly, they are claiming that the 40% ownership transferred to the heirs under the Compromise Agreement was fidei commissa and should therefore be nullified.  I would point out that this claim in item #2 seems to contradict itself by stating that there are narrow exceptions where fidei commissa transfers are allowed but then later goes on to call them illegal.  I'm not a lawyer...I don't know, nor do I know if their claim that fidei commissa is applicable to this case is even accurate.

What I do know...what I've been researching for the past couple of the actual history of what happened when Edward Wisner died and how the estate was divided.  I use the word "divided" circumspectly as the actual tale is shaping out to be one of the most sordid stories of back-stabbing and land-swindling in the history of the state.  In fact, I believe it may have shaped this state more than any other "back-room" deal in its history and that's saying a lot for Louisiana.

I'm still working on getting all the pieces of the puzzle together and I hope to post, at least, a brief history of what actually happened with Edward Wisner's estate after his death.  I wish I would have published the historical aspects of the story'd be reading this current countermotion with an entirely new sense of irony.

This is definitely one from the crypt, a century ago, but it is by the far the best corpse I've ever dug up.

Back to the present, this move by Mayor Landrieu doesn't just axe the heirs from the picture, it 86's the other Wisner Trust beneficiaries as well.  That's a pretty big chunk of money for both LSU and Tulane to lose every year.  I'm curious if they are going to file suit against the mayor in order to protect their own financial interests.  That would seem like the logical thing to do, no?  I mean, why would they just sit back and allow the Mayor to take over an annual source of income from them?  8 million last year which would put LSU and Tulane's respective pulls at close to a million each.  They don't care about that?

Seems to me that money could help LSU cover the bulk of their 1.3 million scholarship program they're doling out to politically connected muckity-mucks:

LSU Board of Supervisors awards $1.3 million through little-known scholarship program

(See our old buddy Steve Perry in that story?  Don't worry...haven't let go of that's coming.)

And what of Charity Hospital...the building itself?  It seems to be in play at the moment regarding the Mayor's plan to move City Hall and Civil District Court into the building.  Currently, LSU's position in the Trust is contingent upon Charity Hospital, or so it would seem.

I call LSU and Tulane's response to this motion into question for a very good reason.  If you haven't been following the Wisner chronicles here on AZ, time to go back and read Part 2.  It's rather complicated but worth your time if you want to understand the shuffling that's going on behind the scenes.

I hate to say this but you know what thought has been running through my head for the past month?   Poor Ray...he was just an amateur.

And here is WWL's story....I was waiting to post mine after they posted theirs.  I don't care about being first, I just care about being me.  After all...they've got an official legal analyst.  Of course, I do too but I have to wait for them to pipe in on the comment section...(cough, cough)

City drops legal bombshell in dispute over oil-rich property  


Doug Handshoe said...

I thought Perlstein's story was superficial at best. And Chick Foret's pearls of wisdom contained therein were LOL funny.

They would have been better off to let you go first.

Jason Brad Berry said...

Agreed on Foret but overall I'm just glad they're reporting it. Apparently Fox 8 did a story Friday night (when no one was watching) and I can't find it on their website. I was also told Nola did a story but that seems to have disappeared as well.

Fun times we're livin' in.

jeffrey said...

Holy crap. I know for a fact had a story up just this morning because I read it. Where did it go?

jeffrey said...

Could be I'm imagining things.

Jason Brad Berry said...

Do you remember what the tone of the story was? Was is it benign, slanted, etc.?

jeffrey said...

No. I was just reading for facts. I ended up reading 2 or 3 different stories from their archive about Wisner today which is why I may be confused. Might be mashing those up with Perlstein's story in my mind.

Anonymous said...

Que La Force soit avec vous!

Anonymous said...

I saw that story as well on NOLA. Not there now.......

Anonymous said...

When is the Wisner case being heard and is open to the public?