Livingston contractor wants DA removed, judge puts off decision _lowres

Corey Delahoussaye

A former Livingston Parish contractor facing charges of theft and falsifying public records claims prosecutors are going after him but are overlooking potential fraud by others because he stood up to “the good ol’ boy network” in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav.

Corey delaHoussaye said he can think of no other reason why the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office would prosecute him for allegedly overbilling the parish for wetlands mitigation work after the 2008 storm. The prosecutor has charged delaHoussaye with overbilling the parish about $25,000. The contractor billed the parish about $1.9 million for his work, the prosecutor has said.

Three years after the parish fired delaHoussaye’s firm and a year after he was arrested, delaHoussaye is fighting back with social media posts about his status as an FBI informant, his role in helping the Federal Emergency Management Agency defeat the parish’s claims for $59 million in Gustav cleanup costs and instances of potential fraud by others involved in the debris removal.

“They’re coming after me, plain and simple, because I broke the good ol’ boy network,” delaHoussaye told The Advocate recently. “When I started exposing the fraud, I was told to pick a side, and I chose the side of the people.”

DelaHoussaye has been accused of playing golf, working out at a health club and taking his children to swim meets during times he claimed he was working for the parish — allegations he denied. He said the parish terminated his contract in retaliation for his reporting alleged improper and illegal cleanup work by the parish’s debris removal and monitoring contractors.

DelaHoussaye has said he “block-billed,” in which he claimed in invoices that he worked roughly the same hours each day, because his schedule varied widely. He also said he worked more hours than he recorded and he sometimes needed to disguise the hours he worked because he was working as an FBI informant at the time.

“My billing shows me working 8 to 5, a 9-hour day, and yet I only charged 8 hours,” delaHoussaye said. “It’s my business what I do with that hour. I don’t need to justify it. It’s not part of my contract.”

The District Attorney’s Office filed an 81-count bill of information against delaHoussaye in December 2013, two weeks after a parish grand jury, in an 8-2 vote, declined to indict him. One more vote would have led to an indictment.

DelaHoussaye has questioned why District Attorney Scott Perrilloux pursued charges against him but has not prosecuted others who may have overbilled or broken the law during the cleanup.

DelaHoussaye points specifically to a 2010 legislative auditor’s report that said a parish subcontractor, James Ray Clark, had billed overlapping hours as a parish sewer district manager and as foreman of his private company’s debris removal crew during the immediate aftermath of the storm.

Clark’s time sheets reflect 58 hours of work as foreman for CC&C Contractors during the same week he logged 63 hours operating a truck for the sewer district. The audit report states that Clark told auditors he was never actually present for the private crew’s work but still deserved to be paid as owner of the company.

Clark said Saturday his name was on CC&C’s time sheets because he was owner of the foreman’s truck the crew used. However, on the billing sheet, it has Clark listed as the “operator.” The billing was for hours of equipment use, not his work on-site, he said. Clark reiterated that he was never at the job site where the CC&C crew worked but that he was in contact with the crew. Clark also said his wife is primary owner of the company.

Clark said he has “no reason to dodge bullets or hide from anyone. The bottom line is, he (delaHoussaye) is shooting because he’s being shot at.”

Asked about delaHoussaye’s allegations of selective or malicious prosecution, Perrilloux said the biggest distinction between the two cases was that “the matter on Mr. Clark was a legislative auditor’s report and file, not a criminal investigation,” as was conducted with delaHoussaye.

DelaHoussaye said he believes it was Perrilloux who caused him to be investigated by the state Inspector General’s Office in the first place. As evidence, delaHoussaye points to the bills of Livingston Parish legal adviser Christopher Moody, whom Perrilloux appointed.

Moody’s bills to the parish for May 2013 indicate numerous meetings and phone calls with Perrilloux, the Inspector General’s Office, the FBI and U.S. attorneys regarding an investigation into delaHoussaye’s billing.

Two months later, the Inspector General’s Office obtained a search warrant and seized from delaHoussaye’s Baton Rouge home 42 electronic devices believed to contain billing records and other pertinent documents.

The day of the raid — July 25, 2013 — the Parish Council was slated to hold a “discussion and remedy to pay” delaHoussaye on the $379,000 check Parish President Layton Ricks had stopped payment on after taking office in January 2012. The check, written by former Parish President Mike Grimmer before he left office, represented final payment for delaHoussaye’s Gustav work.

On Dec. 5, 2013, five months after the raid, the Parish Council was scheduled to discuss delaHoussaye’s federal whistleblower lawsuit in executive session. DelaHoussaye was arrested the same day.

“The two times I was to be paid, they raided my house and arrested me,” delaHoussaye said. “There’s no way on God’s green Earth that’s coincidental.”

The Parish Council has voted to pay delaHoussaye and to settle his lawsuit, but Ricks has refused to sign the check, citing the criminal investigation and prosecution. Councilman Ricky Goff recently suggested rescinding the resolution to pay delaHoussaye after reviewing the contractor’s bills with Moody, the parish legal adviser.

DelaHoussaye said if the council does rescind its decision to pay him, he would consider that to be “another act of retaliation, under the advice of the DA,” who appointed Moody.

Moody said the council’s evidence of discrepancies in delaHoussaye’s billing overlaps some of the district attorney’s case but is also much broader in scope.

“It’s our understanding that the criminal case is cherry-picked, meaning they went with only the most convincing portions to present to a jury,” Moody said.

DelaHoussaye has sought to recuse the District Attorney’s Office from his criminal case because he said he received legal advice from the previous parish legal adviser, Blayne Honeycutt, on various Gustav-related issues, including his contract and billing. A 21st Judicial District judge, Brenda Ricks, no relation to the parish president, denied delaHoussaye’s motion. The 1st Circuit declined to take the case on appeal.

DelaHoussaye’s next court date is Feb. 23. A trial date has not yet been set.

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen. Contact her by phone at (225) 336-6981.