A federal judge on Thursday threw out some of contractor Corey Delahoussaye’s claims against Livingston Parish for the termination of his contract after he reported allegedly illegal cleanup work following Hurricane Gustav.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick ruled Thursday that Delahoussaye did not qualify for whistleblower status under state law because he was an independent contractor, rather than an employee, of the parish. But Dick said Delahoussaye could pursue his retaliation claims under the First and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Livingston Parish hired Delahoussaye’s firm, C-Del Inc., in October 2009 to help resolve wetlands permit and mitigation issues lingering from the parish’s cleanup efforts after the 2008 storm. The Parish Council terminated its contract with C-Del in August 2011 after raising concerns about the firm’s $2 million in invoices.
Delahoussaye has been accused of playing golf, working out at a health club and taking his children to swim meets during times he claimed to be doing work for the parish. He faces 81 counts of public records fraud and theft related to those invoices.
But Delahoussaye claims the parish’s cleanup and monitoring contractors and certain parish officials conspired to terminate his contract because of his allegations about illegal cleanup work.
He filed suit in federal court in Baton Rouge in August 2012 against the parish, Parish President Layton Ricks, cleanup contractor International Equipment Distributors and monitoring firms Alvin Fairburn & Associates and Professional Engineering Consultants.
Delahoussaye’s attorney, Jill Craft, said Thursday that a June 30 arbitration ruling denying $59 million of Livingston Parish’s claims for FEMA reimbursement only confirmed her client’s concerns about the cleanup work.
“Had these people listened to him and not gone after him, it could’ve saved the taxpayers tremendous headache and a lot of money,” Craft said.
Craft said she and Delahoussaye are “thrilled” and “frankly ecstatic” about Thursday’s ruling.
“It’s not uncommon in civil rights cases for judges to peel off a couple claims here and there,” Craft said. “I know Corey is looking forward to having his day in court.”
Parish legal adviser Christopher Moody said Thursday evening he had not yet seen the ruling but was pleased to hear the claims had been narrowed and that Judge Dick dismissed any claims against Ricks in his personal capacity.
Dick ruled that, even assuming Ricks did violate Delahoussaye’s rights, the contractor failed to explain how Ricks’ actions were objectively unreasonable.
Dick previously dismissed the three firms from the lawsuit, saying Delahoussaye did not show enough evidence of a conspiracy to warrant their inclusion as defendants in the case.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen.