Monday, May 19, 2014

DHECC - Lionel Sutton Interview Part 1 - Corps Constructors

In the course of writing about the issues at the DHECC, I've come to the conclusion that mainstream media resources in this City and even national ones simply don't want to address the totality of this story.  Instead, they are satisfied with simply making a cursory glance and only choosing one side, BP, or the other, Pat Juneau, the PSC and the claimant attorneys.

The problem is, this story isn't a dichotomy.  There is a third party, the most important party, the people of the Gulf Coast who have been devastated by the BP oil spill and will continue to suffer for decades.  The reality is both BP and the "good ol' boys" running the show aren't nearly as divided with each other as the two entities are against the people to whom they are supposed be providing relief.  That complexity seems to be too difficult for MSM outlets like 60 Minutes, The New York Times, The LA Times, WWL-TV and a host of others to wrap their heads around.

Admittedly, I've struggled to tell the story myself but I am just one person with few resources.  The nature of blogging isn't exactly conducive to simplifying complex stories and what I'm doing here on AZ is really more of a running journal while I garner new information and sources as the story unfolds.

With that in mind, I've decided to begin compiling this story into a larger one (documentary, book, maybe both) about the nature of the oil and gas industry, the justice system, the state government - its regulatory entities and how they all intersect in the state of Louisiana.  Essentially it's a story about how this unholy union is destroying our state's environment, health and culture.

Last month I reached out to former DHECC employee Lionel Sutton after he began commenting on the blog.  While working at the Claims Office, Sutton, along with his wife Christine Reitano, were accused of various ethical breaches by court-appointed Special Master Louis J. Freeh.  In his first report, Freeh even went so far as to accuse Sutton of criminal activity and suggested that he should be prosecuted for the alleged crimes he committed while serving at the office.  Reitano was subsequently terminated by Claims Administrator Pat Juneau and she has filed a breach of contract lawsuit against the Claims Office and BP.

To my surprise, Sutton not only agreed to the interview, he held no stipulations on the questions I may ask.

Last week I conducted the video interview which ran over two hours.  Aside from the larger story, my immediate goal with the material and AZ is to address the items in the interview individually over multiple posts as there is just simply too much to tackle in a "one and done" effort.

"...he's waited long enough.."

I want to kick off with an item that was of great importance to me in respect to an allegation Sutton had made in a court filing about having been asked by Pat Juneau to expedite a claim for one of Juneau's friends.  Here is the clip regarding that allegation:

DHECC - Lionel Sutton Interview Series - Corps Constructors 1 from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

Corps Constructors is a Baton Rouge based construction company owned by John Ryan Nader.

According to Sutton, Pat Juneau was checking on the status of the claim and asked him to have it expedited because Juneau was friends with John Ryan's father, Sam Nader.  Sam Nader is the Assitant Athletics Director for LSU's football program.

While I'm not suggesting a quid pro quo, it is interesting to note that Pat Juneau's grandson, Jonathan Juneau, was recruited as a freshman walk-on to LSU's football team in 2012.

What I will suggest is that if this allegation by Sutton is true, the Claims Administrator, Pat Juneau, had a claim expedited for a friend and hence violated the terms of the settlement which states that all claims must be processed in the order they are received.

When I originally revealed that some of the Plaintiff Steering Committee members had 409 claims expedited, most of them their own, in the Fall of 2012, Mr. Juneau stated that these claims were expedited as part of a "sampling program" incorporated in preparation for the fairness hearing that occurred in November of 2012.  After repeated requests to the Office and the Court, I have found no minutes entry or any legal record mentioning the alleged sampling program.

Regardless, the Corps Constructors claim could not have been expedited as part of the alleged sampling program because it happened well after the fairness hearing took place.

I contacted the Claims Office per email last week and requested an interview with Mr. Juneau to present him with this issue and numerous others that I will address in forthcoming posts but I received no response.  Mr. Juneau recently appeared on 60 Minutes, WWL-TV and granted an interview with the New York Times but none of those entities queried him on the expedited claims issue so I was hoping to get his explanation to this Corps Constructors matter and other matters before I started posting.

If he won't respond to me, I'm hoping that at least one MSM entity will confront him on this issue.

It's important to note that Lionel Sutton did not know if the Corps Constructors claim had actually been paid out.  He just acknowledged having contacted Brown and Greer and asking them to move the claim ahead of all the others in queue.  I would like to ask Mr. Juneau if the claim was, in fact, paid ahead of other claimants.

I would particularly like to know why Mr. Juneau thinks his friend's son, a construction company in Baton Rouge, had "waited long enough" back in 2012 while many fisherman and businesses right on the Coast have waited years, still haven't been paid, and must now meet a whole different set of standards than Mr. Nader.

Coming Attractions

In the next segment I will address how Lionel Sutton was hired at the Claims Office and his response to the charges levied against him by Louis Freeh.  Later on, the interview segments will also address the fraudulent claims filed by the "page 60" PSC firm, the recent 495 "matching" policy passed by Judge Barbier which creates a whole new set of standards for claimants, and take a closer look at Louis Freeh's investigation material.

Stay tuned.

CORRECTION:  In the original post I mis-stated the date of the fairness hearing and the 409 expedited claims as being in 2010.  It was 2012 and I have corrected that.        

18 comments:

Kevin said...

Nicely done. Lionel Sutton appears very credible. Personally, I like the way he openly admits his knowledge on the 409 claims is limited. His information on the request to expedite that Nader claim is fascinating.

How long has Pat Juneau been a member or whatever on the Tiger Athletic Foundation?

Anonymous said...

FAQ #287 on the Claims Administration's web site reads as follows:

287. Are you reviewing claims in the first-in-first-out order?
The Program generally tries to follow a first-in-first out order when reviewing claims, although the Settlement Agreement does not require this processing order. There are some reasons why reviewing claims in the order in which we receive them is not always possible, such as varying review times depending on the complexity of the claim or the amount of documents in the file to review, or the completeness of the file at the time the claim is submitted.

Anonymous said...

And:

289. My firm submitted a group of claims for the same damage category at the same time, but we have only received Notices for some of the claims. Why aren't you reviewing the claims in the order in which you received them?

Despite the general goal to review claims in order, review times may vary based on any number of unique or claim type specific reasons. In addition, the Claims Administrator's goal was to review before the opt-out deadline and Fairness Hearing a sufficient sampling of claims in each of the claim types so that firms and claimants know how the Program will treat other similar claims. This sampling has resulted in certain claims being processed ahead of others.

Dambala - Jason Brad Berry said...

Surely you're not suggesting this claim was justifiably expedited based on the information you cut and pasted from the website?

Dambala - Jason Brad Berry said...

If that is what you're suggesting, you better loosen up your thumb and index finger...you're gonna gonna have a lot of cutting and pasting to do in the co I g weeks cause it's only getting worse from this point on.

Dambala - Jason Brad Berry said...

...coming weeks...

Anonymous said...

This is a great story. I`m not merely speaking about the fact that you are wroking to tell it, and one again, getting the goods.

I want to repsond to your point that you are only a blogger, and you tell these stories as information comes in, and you have an ongoing relationship with your readers and commentors, following up on leads that your most informed posters have to offer.

It is great theatre, what you are doing. And somehow it fits the regional call-and-response traditions of worship and music-- it may be journalism as a subgenre of jazz.

Your position as an ordinary citizen, and as an informed outsider is interesting. It is a neat way of taking on the stories you tell.

I`m glad you are thinking of a book, but I am sad that this is taking the Nagin-era book, the housing story book, and the Mose Jefferson and family books out of the stack for a while.

Dambala - Jason Brad Berry said...

I appreciate the kind words.

Here's the thing....to me this story is much bigger than any of the other ones you mentioned. Nothing I've ever written about has such a deep-seeded effect on the people of this state as this story does.

The Jefferson story is epic, in my opinion, but it's also out of my league in respect to it's literary potential. I don't think I'm a good enough writer to take that on.

This story is epic but in a different way...not so much in a literary sense but more hidden history. I think I can handle that better than I can the other genre.

Dambala - Jason Brad Berry said...

To me, the Jefferson saga is a modern "All The King's Men".

We've seen a thousand books written about the rise and fall of political dynasties, fiction and non. How many stories have you read about the rise of an African-American political dynasty in the deep south?

Anonymous said...

Re the FAQs I posted, I am not suggesting much except I do believe that the Claims Administrator has some degree of discretion regarding the order of processing. In fact, I believe there is a process (or was) for expediting claims in the event of a demonstrated financial hardship (pending bankruptcy, medical issue, etc). I cannot speak to the facts of this particular claim.

Dambala - Jason Brad Berry said...

I can assure you this claim had nothing to do with the financial hardship program...the claim was not submitted as such. The Claims Administrator does not have the right violate the terms of the settlement to help a friend...no way, shape or form should he be allowed to do this if Lionel Sutton's description is accurate.

This is why I wanted to give Juneau the opportunity to explain it.

Kevin said...

Anonymous at May 19, 2014 at 1:47:00 PM CDT:

Here's a FAQ as seen on the AZ:

a. Just exactly how did the Claims Administrator and those under his supervision provide the results from their sufficient sampling of claims in each of the claim types so that firms and claimants knew prior to the opt out deadline how the Program would treat other similar claims?"


johnpagenola said...

There is a third party, the most important party, the people. The reality is both the Democrats and the Republicans running the show aren't nearly as divided with each other as the two entities are against the people to whom they are supposed be providing relief. That complexity seems to be too difficult for MSM outlets like 60 Minutes, The New York Times, The LA Times, WWL-TV and a host of others to wrap their heads around.

FTFY

Anonymous said...

Response to;
287.Are you reviewing claims in the first-in-first-out order?
The Program generally tries to follow a first-in-first out order when reviewing claims, although the Settlement Agreement does not require this processing order. There are some reasons why reviewing claims in the order in which we receive them is not always possible, such as varying review times depending on the complexity of the claim or the amount of documents in the file to review, or the completeness of the file at the time the claim is submitted.

From experience let me give you some of the reasons why and the effect it has by not following the FIFO.

Most claims have already been calculated just bounced around in the claim status, this allows Paj to project the overall cost of the settlement.

1.Set aside claims and create policies to exclude them or reduce the amount due.

2.Slows down the aggressive firms from filing more claims.

3.Ties up funds and resources of firms, answering bogus incomplete notices.

4.This creates more billable hours for the court vendors.

5.Control payments to 300 – 400 million per month check the stats.

6.It gives him control over who gets paid.

Clay said...

Vice did a segment on health effects from Macondo http://www.whistleblower.org/blog/042716-tonight-hbos-vice-spotlight-lingering-health-impacts-bp-oil-%E2%80%98cleanup%E2%80%99

Dr. Robicheaux, Dr. Ott interviewed. The thesis was the widespread use of Corexit is continuing to cause health issues years later.

Clay said...

Summary of DOJ OPR report published

http://www.theneworleansadvocate.com/home/9233475-172/doj-report-found-that-perricone

It relates to the Letten-era Nola.com comments scandal. It says Letten was unawares, but I'm finding that more dubious as time goes on.

Kevin said...

Jason:

Any feedback from the Naders? Corps Constructors? Juneau? Lawyers?!?

Anyone who knows:

Did or does Special Master Francis McGovern have any involvement with or authority over the DHECC or the CAO?

Anonymous said...

Dambala, there is an amazing literature from post-colonial Africa, a whole literary tradition, that explores the virtues and the corruptions of the generation of black African leaders and politicians that have emerged in the post-colonial era.

You might like the novel ``Wizard of the Crow.``

I totally agree with you that the Jefferson story could and should become a novel as powerful as ``All the King`s Men.``

Many of the African novels in this tradition have a special power, because even when you are mad as anything at the bad things the villains are doing, flashbacks or other ways of telling of their (often heroic) back stories fighting against apartheid-type regimes makes you sympathetic.

The community around Jefferson came up through some legitimately difficult circumstances, and the rise and fall of that group of people would, you are right, make for an interesting novel.