Some Livingston Parish Council members are having second thoughts about paying a former parish contractor who is accused of going to a Mardi Gras parade, working out at the gym, drinking Patron and playing golf at the country club during hours he claimed to be working for the parish after Hurricane Gustav.
Corey delaHoussaye faces prosecution in state court on numerous counts of falsifying public records and theft related to his billing. DelaHoussaye claims his prosecution, the termination of his contract in 2011 and parish officials’ refusal to pay his final invoice are retaliation for his reporting alleged illegal activities by the parish’s Hurricane Gustav debris contractors.
DelaHoussaye said the Federal Emergency Management Agency — whose lead attorney referred to him as a “confirmed FBI informant” during a May arbitration hearing — relied heavily on information he compiled about the debris removal work to defeat the parish’s claims for $59 million in storm-related costs.
But prosecutors have said delaHoussaye committed fraud by billing the parish for time he was not actually working.
The Advocate reviewed delaHoussaye’s time sheets and daily work logs for the 24 months his company, C-Del Inc., was under contract with the parish and found additional problems, including instances of double-billing, repetitive and inconsistent work log entries and staff hours billed for putting out campaign signs and cleaning the office — tasks C-Del was not hired to perform.
DelaHoussaye said those problems could be chalked up to clerical errors, misunderstandings about how his hours were recorded and a lack of internal oversight for the company’s billing records. He has denied billing for time he spent off the job, although he did admit billing from a Lafayette Mardi Gras parade once because he was “on the phone constantly with two agents that day.”
The 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office has charged delaHoussaye with 73 counts of falsifying public records and eight counts of theft related to his billing. A hearing to determine whether there was probable cause for the charges is set for Feb. 23.
Council Chairman Chance Parent said parish officials should wait until after the hearing to decide whether delaHoussaye is owed anything beyond the $1.9 million the parish already paid C-Del for work on wetlands mitigation and burn site closures. DelaHoussaye’s unpaid final invoice totaled more than $379,000.
“The mood of the council at this point is to rescind our resolution to pay him,” Parent said. “It’s just a question right now of how much of his billing should be thrown out and how that compares to what the parish has already paid.”
Parent and other council members recently reviewed delaHoussaye’s billing with parish legal adviser Christopher Moody, an appointee of District Attorney Scott Perrilloux, and said there is considerable evidence that delaHoussaye had not always worked the hours he claimed on his time sheets.
That evidence includes golf and gym records, swim meet schedules and photos, delaHoussaye’s personal journal entries and invoices for unrelated projects in other parishes. Prosecutors have said they also obtained medical records showing that delaHoussaye had surgery during hours he billed the parish for work.
Perrilloux, the district attorney, said the criminal case is based on about $25,000 worth of “clear” overbilling, but he said much more of delaHoussaye’s billing is questionable. Parent said the total figure of questionable billing is about $200,000 to $250,000 — roughly 10 percent of C-Del’s bills.
“There wasn’t an intentional act to commit fraud against my parish,” delaHoussaye said recently, adding that he would gladly sit down with parish officials to discuss his bills.
When asked about his billing practices during a November 2011 deposition in a lawsuit between the parish and its primary debris removal contractor, delaHoussaye invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to testify against himself more than 60 times.
In interviews, however, he has said that he “block-billed,” in which he recorded roughly the same hours every day, because his schedule varied widely and because he sometimes needed to disguise the hours he worked while he was an informant.
Early in his contract period, delaHoussaye billed overlapping hours on separate invoices with conflicting descriptions of his activities for those hours.
DelaHoussaye’s work logs also contain repetitive task descriptions, using the same vague language to describe his activities every workday for more than nine consecutive months. That nine-month period began July 26, 2010, the week after delaHoussaye logged a seven-hour day he described only as “Meeting FBI-EPA.”
One of the repeated-entry days was Thanksgiving, a day every other member of his staff reported as a holiday, including delaHoussaye’s wife. DelaHoussaye said he billed that day because he worked unrecorded hours on the weekend.
In May 2011, at the Parish Council’s request, delaHoussaye began to provide more information about his daily activities. Those additional reports, despite adding detail, also contain numerous repeated entries that conflict with their own timeline of events.
On June 16, 2011, after a weeklong audit and a follow-up meeting with the Governor’s Office of Emergency Preparedness and Homeland Security, delaHoussaye wrote in his log that he “Left GOHSEP in the hopes of never having to do another audit.” He logged an identical entry seven days later.
Likewise, he logged a visit to Clinton Allen Lateral on June 17, 2011, noting, “Impact and self restore in order. This site will need to be checked again in 8-10 months to ensure proper maint (sic) and growth.” But according to his logs, he returned to the canal seven days later, made the exact same observations and again said a recheck was needed in eight to 10 months.
DelaHoussaye said much of his work was repetitive, especially when he was reviewing the thousands of tree tickets and photographs documenting debris removal. He said hours billed under multiple invoices or for unrelated tasks, like putting out campaign signs, must be the result of clerical errors.
DelaHoussaye also disputed the accuracy of his golf club’s records, saying the club frequently recorded his rounds on incorrect days and did not distinguish whether it was him or a family member dining at the clubhouse. He said he often met work sources at the gym and that other family members took his children to their swim meets.
“I missed all but the city meet, which was on a Saturday, because I was too busy and consumed with my job,” delaHoussaye said. “I was living two lives as an informant and put that ... job first and lost time with my family that I’ll never get back.”
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen. Contact her by phone at (225) 336-6981.