A dispute between Attorney General Jeff Landry and a former campaign worker is heating up, with the two tussling in court over what the operative claims is an unpaid debt of between $175,000 and $250,000 from Landry’s 2015 campaign.
The jilted campaign worker, Dwayne Alexander, is a prodigious filer of lawsuits. He has also gotten into past trouble for working as a private investigator without a required license.
This suit was actually filed by Landry and his campaign several months ago, after Alexander sent him a demand letter and threatened to sue over the alleged debt. Landry pre-empted him, asking a Jefferson Parish judge to issue a declaratory judgment ruling that it did not owe Alexander anything because he was a volunteer.
Alexander punched back in a filing this week. He says Landry hired him in 2015 after they met in the offices of politically active New Orleans lawyer Bob Harvey, who was supporting Landry. According to Alexander, who is black, Landry was looking for someone to help him secure African-American votes in and around the city.
The campaign first got in touch with former state Rep. Sherman Copelin for similar services, but Copelin’s price was too high, according to an affidavit filed by Harvey. Copelin said in a phone interview that he didn’t remember whether such a meeting had occurred.
Alexander, who sometimes works for Harvey, offered to provide the desired services for about a third of what Copelin wanted, and Landry agreed to the deal in the presence of several others, according to Harvey. Bob D’Hemecourt, a longtime political operative who was part of Landry’s 2015 campaign, also signed an affidavit attesting such a deal was struck.
Alexander acknowledges he had no written contract.
According to Harvey, to allow Alexander to get started, Landry cut Harvey a “down payment” of $5,000 in October 2015, with the intent that Harvey – who stresses he did no legal work for Landry or his campaign -- would pass the money to Alexander.
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A copy of the check, from Landry’s personal account, is attached to Harvey’s affidavit, along with a check for $5,000 that Harvey wrote to Alexander on the same day.
Alexander claims he did the work Landry wanted – posting hundreds of campaign signs in Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes and doing his best to get Landry traction among black voters by putting the campaign in contact with ministers, radio personalities and others.
But the suit alleges that Landry only came up with $7,500 more after the initial $5,000, even though he still owed Alexander $245,000. The $7,500, according to the suit, came from a political action committee affiliated with Landry, and was paid to Alexander’s brother, according to affidavits from Harvey, D’Hemecourt and Alexander.
D’Hemecourt’s affidavit said the check was cut at the direction of businessman Shane Guidry, a key financial supporter of Landry who went on to take an unpaid high-level job in the Landry administration.
Guidry told The Advocate he did not recall asking for such a payment to be made but could not be sure he had not done so.
It’s unclear why the two payments allegedly meant for Alexander went to other people, but Harvey’s affidavit says “Landry did not want to write the check directly to Alexander for reasons Landry and Alexander had previously discussed.”
Alexander makes another eye-popping claim – that Landry’s lawyer, Stephen Oats of Lafayette, suggested he might be able to satisfy Alexander’s debt with public money instead of campaign cash, by expediting a $300,000 legal judgment Alexander is owed by the state in an unrelated matter.
Such an arrangement would violate the law, although Alexander has never been paid either debt.
And Oats says it was Alexander who proposed settling Landry’s purported debt with state money. Alexander's claim is "absolutely untrue,” Oats said. “In fact, when I first tried to talk to him, he tried to link the two.”
Along with D’Hemecourt, Harvey and Alexander, the court papers say the only other people present when the purported oral contract was struck were Landry himself and Millard Mule, then the campaign manager and now a Landry spokesman.
Mule declined to answer questions about what happened at the meetings, referring a reporter to a strategist for the Landry campaign, Brent Littlefield, who was not present at the meetings.
“Anybody can file a fabricated lawsuit,” Littlefield said. “Anyone can read the lawsuit and understand that it’s fabricated. And that is why the campaign took the step to seek to have this dismissed quickly.”
Littlefield declined to give specific answers to questions about the allegations in the lawsuit and the affidavits. Littlefield repeated the same answer in response to each question: “The claims are outrageous.”
Alexander and his lawyer, Raymond Burkart Jr., have sought to have the case moved to Orleans Parish. Oats, Landry’s lawyer, said he is confident the case will remain in Jefferson Parish and that Alexander’s claim will be found to be without merit.