Attorneys for the Audubon Nature Institute have agreed to remove a provision of a controversial public contract that would have benefited companies controlled by two of Audubon’s board members.
The contract, as approved in April, directed managers of a proposed soccer complex in Audubon Park to buy all beer and wine concessions from Crescent Crown Distributing and, “wherever possible,” to sell alcohol brands owned by Sazerac Co.
Audubon Nature Institute board members Jeffrey Goldring and Paul Fine own, manage or direct both Crescent Crown and Sazerac Co.
The previously undisclosed details about the deal have added to a controversy that already has stalled plans for the soccer complex. It would be built on an open piece of Audubon land by the river known as “The Fly,” and neighbors who use the area for recreation have complained about losing it.
Audubon’s attorney, Michael DeShazo, added the language regarding Crescent Crown and Sazerac to an agreement with the Carrollton Booster Club in March 2015 “to ensure compliance with Audubon’s beverage agreements,” according to emails obtained by WWL-TV under the Public Records Law.
DeShazo told the station Thursday that by “beverage agreements” he was referring, in part, to a decades-old Audubon resolution honoring the contributions of the Goldring family and pledging to “make all reasonable efforts to purchase all alcoholic beverages” to be sold at Audubon facilities “from … companies in which Messrs. Stephen and William Goldring and their families have an interest.”
But while that resolution gives companies controlled by board members preference at all Audubon facilities, DeShazo said it should not have applied to the proposed soccer complex.
The agreement for Carrollton Boosters to build and manage the proposed soccer complex was approved by the Audubon Commission, a city agency, with the language about Crescent Crown and Sazerac Co. in it, on April 30, 2015, but Audubon Nature Institute CEO Ron Forman has yet to sign it.
Responding to a WWL-TV report that aired Tuesday, Forman told nola.com that Goldring and Fine were never aware that the contract included their companies. Goldring and Fine have not responded to numerous requests for comment over the past week.