Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Advocate story on Wisner

City Hall battles Wisner heirs over valuable real estate

Very well written, a great job by Andrew Vanacore.

Some highlights:

1.  Chett Chiason confirmed that Michael Sherman was shopping the property to him in this Advocate story.  I also confirmed Sherman contacted Laney Chouest about it which is what Michael Peneguy asks him in the video.

Sherman claims he doesn't even know "Mr. Chouest".

Michael could have been referring to another "Mr. Chouest" but that's a stretch considering I confirmed the conversation took place.  I think Michael Sherman knew exactly what Peneguy was asking him and that's why he spazzed out.....yelling, "Mr. Peneguy, you are out of order!!!" :

The Wisner Trust - Committee Meeting, Feb, 18, 2013 - Peneguy asks Sherman about shopping the sale of the land from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

Incidentally, Michael Peneguy wasn't out of order...the point of order had been brought to the table.  If Sherman was shopping the sale of Wisner land I think it deserved to be talked about at the meeting, no?

I sent an email asking former Director of Communications for Mayor Landrieu, Ryan Berni, if the Mayor was aware that Sherman was playing real estate agent with Wisner property but I got no response.

From the story:
"Landrieu's administration denies shopping the property, but Chet Chiasson, director of Port Fourchon, acknowledged in an interview that the mayor's executive counsel, Michael Sherman, approached him before leaving City Hall in May about whether the port would be willing to buy the land."
That's two separate confirmations that the property was being shopped.

Either Michael Sherman is a liar, Mitch Landrieu is a liar....or both of them are lying.  That's ironic considering the Mayor's office is claiming they have been attempting to bring transparency to the Committee.

2.  Stacy Gerhold-Marvin went on the record about getting strong-armed out of the Committee by the Mayor's office and that was confirmed by Cathy Norman per her phone conversation with Roxanne Townsend.

She wouldn't go on record with me but I'm a lowly blogger...woe is me.

3.  Chiasson basically repeated his sentiments about what would happen if the Trust is dissolved.  I have speculated that the Port may get the state to take it over under imminent domain but this is what Chiasson told the Committee directly:

The Wisner Trust - Committee Meeting, Feb, 18, 2013 - Chett Chiasson Comments on Port Fourchon's intent for the Wisner Land from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

But let me give you another scenario.  If the City takes over the entire thing and Mitch is intent on selling it, who would realistically be able to buy it aside from the Port of Fourchon?

Hmmm....a massive oil company with interests in the Gulf could buy the land.  A massive oil company looking to buy the land in order to avoid a costly settlement for damage they may have caused from the largest oil spill in history?  Kind of like what happened with Cat Island in Mississippi?

That would explain a lot.

4.  "The mayor's spokesman could not say which firm Sherman works for, and Sherman did not respond to an email sent to his Tulane address."

I believe that would be Jones Walker?

But perhaps I'm wrong...from comment section:
Sherm the "worm" (or "superman" as he was once known at City Hall) is "of counsel" at the firm Middleberg, Riddle, Gianna. Fun fact: Dominic Gianna was a consultant on the film My Cousin Vinny. 
Comment section #2:

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The Advocate story on Wisner": 


According to the LSBA Membership Directory, the 'little guy' is not affiliated with any firm. 

Thanks to The Advocate for citing me....they could have linked to me but I guess that's asking too much :) .

UPDATE:  I found out The Advocate doesn't have a linking system on the website yet but they're working on that.  Cool beans.


Anonymous said...

Sherm the "worm" (or "superman" as he was once known at City Hall) is "of counsel" at the firm Middleberg, Riddle, Gianna. Fun fact: Dominic Gianna was a consultant on the film My Cousin Vinny.

Anonymous said...


According to the LSBA Membership Directory, the 'little guy' is not affiliated with any firm.

Anonymous said...

No wonder Sherman sought a real estate license while at Sapir and Sherman. After the Judge Medley ruling in September, Half Moon`s "Bagman Superworm" Sherman is ready to score a once in a lifetime time commission from a "soon to be signed" real estate transaction and a big $$$$ pop for the city of N.O.....Port Fourchon.
Is Sherman still with Keller Williams Realty, Inc.? "Superworm" must have a broker license for such a big "in the works" payoff?

Anonymous said...

I see that both Michael Sherman and his wife, Carey Sherman, work for local real estate companies. This is interesting....

Kevin said...

I personally thought Sherman sought a real estate license back when he was with Sapir so he could broker some condos for people from Florida in a real estate transaction with the Marcello family out at the Churchill Farms property?

Kevin said...

Checking my records, it appears in 2007, Mike Sherman (504) 862-1010 (Eddie Sapir's number), acted as the attorney and representative of Joseph Marcello in connection with a site assessment for a dirt pit on the Marcello land.

Does anyone think "Mike Sherman" is "Michael Sherman," formerly of Sapir & Sherman?

Kevin said...

Sorry, but I wanted to add something to my last comment. This is from the offical USACE record:

"7.1 Interview with Site Owner
AEROSTAR interviewed Mr. Mike Sherman, owner representative, regarding current and historical activities at the site. According to Mr. Sherman, the site has been in Mr. Joseph Marcello’s family for many decades and the particular site that is called Churchill Farms is being leased to Mr. Bob Nieder for his model airplane training classes for very little monetary payments. Mr. Sherman stated that there were no occupants prior to Mr. Nieder and that the site has been primarily used as a pasture and model airplane field. Mr. Sherman stated that Mr. Marcello has donated some acreage of his property to Jefferson Parish and is intending on developing a large residential subdivision after the levee construction is completed. Mr. Sherman is not aware of any environmental liens or AULs on the site and is not aware of any environmental issues of concern in the immediate site vicinity."

Now, also in 2007, Joseph Marcello sold 50 acres of land to the JEDCO for $1 million. I wonder if Mike Sherman was Mr. Marcello's "owner representative" in that deal, too.

Isn't there some sort of "new town" being proposed by Jefferson Parish officials for the west bank near Churchill Farms?

Kevin said...

Maybe Mike Sherman is busy pushing this agenda:

Anonymous said...

That is some big news if its true. Doesn't some of the Wisner land sit adjacent to the Churchill Farms property?

Jason Brad Berry said...

River Birch is right next to that property as well as Wisner land, if I'm not mistaken. And I'm pretty sure the Marcellos own the property River Birch is on.

Sidebar...have any of you guys heard that the Landrieu's have land ownership in that area? Possibly through Nineland, LLC? Possibly through a counter letter?

Anonymous said...

I have heard that rumor of Nineland but not able to substantiate it. Specifically, I have heard of Nineland having an interest in River Birch. Maybe one of your readers can find out. However, a cover letter is just that - it shields ownership interest from public view.

Anonymous said...

I think you mean a 'counter letter' not a 'cover letter'.

Jason Brad Berry said...

Yeah it's counter letter.

If that rumor has truth to it, it's not just an issue with Mitch and's a bigger issue because of Maurice. Maurice was employed by the U.S. Attny's office during the River Birch investigation. That doesn't mean he was directly involved in the investigation but it would certainly raise some eyebrows if Nineland does have some ownership in the either the lease (Heebe) or the property (Marcello).

Jason Brad Berry said...

The Nineland rumor deserves scrutiny.

The issues with Sapir/Sherman above are established....that begs the question why Mitch placed Sherman as his appointee to the Wisner Trust Committee. Are we to believe Mitch had no idea Sherman was involved in the land deals with Churchill? A Mayor who insists on micro-managing every little aspect of his administration to the point of fault?

Are we to believe that Sherman's (Sapir's former business partner, James Carville's "boy") interests in Churchill never came across Mitch's radar?

Was it simply coincidence that Sherman was placed as the Mayor's appointee to the Wisner Trust Committee?

If you're actually following this story....there's a buttload of coincidences unfolding from the Mayor's office to certain law firms to Civil District Court to the LA Supreme Court to the swampy areas of LaFourche and Jefferson Parish.

Anonymous said...

This might be bad if the city gets control of the property. That said, the "Wisner heirs" (including the heirs of lawyers who had contingent fee interests) don't look like a particularly sympathetic bunch either, nor especially endowed with concern for the greater good, given that they've sucked this teat for over eight decades.

Jason Brad Berry said...

They've sucked the teat of what their ancestor built for them and intended for them to prosper from, just as he intended the City of New Orleans to benefit from it as well.

What I haven't written about is the history of how the Trust came into existence and how the majority of Edward Wisner's land was stolen from his wife and daughters by the families who are now some of the richest in the city and state. Some of those family names are also involved in the current attempt to overtake what remains of the land under the heirs' name. This is a century old land swindle and it's culminating in 2014.

This isn't just about "The City" getting control of the property. It epitomizes everything that is crooked and wrong with this city and state. The theft of the Wisner land (outside of the Trust) built much of the current wealth of New Orleans and even Southern Louisiana for a select few families. I'm still working on that story but I will name those names when I get a better grasp of what happened.

So, that statement is like saying the Mcilhenny family is still "sucking the teat" of Edmund Mcilhenny who founded Tabasco in 1868. Should the state attempt to take over Avery Island?

Is that your perspective? Should all land and wealth be forfeited to the "state" upon a successful business man's death? Because in this state, it wasn't was outright stolen and this is the final chapter in that theft.

Anonymous said...

I don't know enough about the terms to really have much of an opinion. But it does sound like they got 40% of the income of something their predecessor intended to be a public trust. Nevertheless, if there was a 100 year term, then it should probably go back to them (or whoever the trust designated as principal beneficiaries), rather than being grabbed by the city.

I get the distinct impression that this was not put together originally by lawyers who knew what they were doing, which is rather bizarre.

It may be that there is no happy ending to any of this mess.

Jason Brad Berry said...

In fact, I'm not sure there is a literary analogy that comes close to this story. I've been thinking about that a lot.

Anonymous said...

Why not just extend the Trust for another 100 years? Or maybe forever? Wouldn't that benefit the charities of the city, LSU, Tulane, the Salvation Army, and the Heirs?
Why does the City have to try and grab it for itself?
This seems to be more about filling a budget hole than anything else.

By the way, what does LSU, Tulane, and the Salvation Army have to say about all this? Don't they each stand to lose their respective interests?

Anonymous said...

This is the anon you were conversing with (the previous one was not).

I similarly don't mean to criticize your perspective. I don't have enough information to do so, and if I did, I might not want to. I am certainly sympathetic to private property owners in a battle with the government (and more powerful private property owners, which may be the case here). My point is simply that this is a story with multitudes of shades of gray, and little, if any, black or white. I don't claim to know what the proper resolution is, but whatever it is, I hope our judicial system reaches it. (How mealy-mouthed is that!)

Jason Brad Berry said...

With all due respect...very much so.

I think there are issues of black and there are in every story. I think this story is epic in its nature and I'm trying to wrap my head around that by looking at documents no one else has looked at for nearly a century.

I have a pretty good idea of what happened...I'm not saying that flippantly. I have been digging into this story and I think I understand, at least, the chapters.

Your hope in the judicial system is admirable...I wish I could sympathize.

Jason Brad Berry said...

In fact....please inspire me.

Give me a reason to believe.

Jason Brad Berry said...

"By the way, what does LSU, Tulane, and the Salvation Army have to say about all this? Don't they each stand to lose their respective interests?"

Yes!! Thank you, Anon!

That is a huge question! WTF!?!?

Not a peep from the folks who stand to lose so much?

Give me a fuckin' break.

Anonymous said...

"Edward Wisner's land was stolen from his wife and daughters"

by their own lawyer, an officer of the court and their fiduciary, whose job was to prevent theft and who they had given an opportunity to that he would never otherwise had. But instead he repaid the Wisners by doing the opposite of what he was supposed to do and, working with the Wisners' employees, agents etc, economically destroyed them.

He later even tried to claim that their interest in the 40,000 acres involved here belonged to his 'new' clients. There is a reported Louisiana Supreme Court decision on this (which he lost).

But even worse than the crime was the mistake - having stolen the Wisners' land because of the oil underneath it, the people who stole it, instead of drilling themselves, leased it to Texaco, who got 83 and 5/8ths of the value of the oil while they got all of 16 and 3/8ths. All they had to do was ask the Wisners to sign a mineral lease and drill themselves - then 100% of the value would have worked for Louisiana and they would have been rich beyond their wildest dreams.

Anyone who wonders why New Orleans, which in 1917 was the largest and richest city in the South and now, despite billions if not trillions of dollars of oil and gas since discovered in Louisiana, is now little more than a port/tourist trap will now know why the change has occurred.

jeffrey said...

"The Advocate doesn't have a linking system on the website yet but they're working on that"

Um... <a href=""....

The hell?

Jason Brad Berry said...

Yeah that was my reaction but I think it may be a formatting issue in their CMS or something. I'm sure they'll get it worked out.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the biggest stories in New Orleans history and the only media outlets besides the Zombie covering it are WWL TV and The Advocate? Kudos to those media outlets for covering this story because now you know which media outlets have been bought off by their silence.

Rebecca ! said...

I have to thank you for your coverage of this story... it is VERY important and shows just how deep the Landrieu Administration will go! This should be splattered all over the WHY is he being protected...? I am just amazed at the "head in the sand" attitude of a lot of the citizens of this city...amazed!

Kevin said...

Question for the Wisner Donation:

A few articles ago here on AZ, there was some information and links showing that Michael Sherman had intervened into a lawsuit against the City of New Orleans and the Board of Zoning Adjustments for the City of New Orleans Boards. The law firm representing Michael Sherman was the Herman Herman Katz & Cotlar firm (Soren Giselson).

Is that a potential conflict of interest akin to the conflict alleged by the City through its counsel, the Herman law firm, when they petitioned the court to remove the Waltzer firm?

Not looking for you to reveal strategy but is the Wisner Donation going to bring that potential conflict of interest to the attention of Judge Barbier and the ODC?

Anonymous said...

Landrieu controls Fox8 and Just ask the newly 'freed' journalists at the Advocate. Do yourself a favor - peruse under politics, then read the same stories at the Advocate. Notice a difference?
Also, ask yourself why Lee Zurik and Fox8 won't touch the Mayor's office?

Jason Brad Berry said...

And you think I don't know that? I know that better than the newly freed journalists.

Jason Brad Berry said...

Not being a smart ass, Rebecca...I'm just saying....

If anyone knows that, it's me and the avid readers of this blog.

Anonymous said...

Its not just American Zombie that notices the Fox 8 new credibility problem. The public also sees the influence of Landrieu in the Fox 8 newsroom which is why their ratings are now dropping. All the credibility and trust that Lee Zurik had as the next Bill Elder went down the toilet when he started following orders and dropping the really good stories.

Of course it doesn't hurt that Lee's primary source of information was directly from the DOJ and now that they are on lockdown he doesn't have shit to report on because no one gives a rats ass about Galvan or credit card bill charges.