Jury in Williams Olefins plant explosion case awards $16 million more

BY TERRY L. JONES | TJONES@THEADVOCATE.COM NOV 16, 2016 – 5:15 PM

An energy company’s payout to workers injured in the 2013 explosion at the Williams Olefins Geismar plant reached nearly $30 million this week following a jury’s verdict in a second trial related to the disaster.

On Tuesday, Williams Company Inc. was found by a jury to be primarily responsible for the plant fire that killed two people and injured 114 workers. Four of those workers were awarded damages totaling nearly $16 million in the second lawsuit that has gone to trial since the incident.

Four men in September have already been awarded judgments totaling approximately $13.6 million for injuries they sustained in the deadly blast.

Tony Clayton, one of several attorneys who has represented the plaintiffs in both lawsuits, said the outcome in the latest trial, which played out this month at the courthouse in West Baton Rouge Parish, should send the clear message to the plant’s parent company their negligence in causing the explosion will cost them dearly.

“Juries continue to pound in their heads that they have to operate this plant safely,” Clayton said Wednesday.

The second jury assigned 83 percent of the liability for the explosion to Williams Company, Inc., an Oklahoma-based company, and 16 percent of the blame to Sabic Petrochemicals, a Saudi energy company that was added as a co-defendent in the latest lawsuit. Two top-ranking officials at the plant were each assigned 0.2 percent of the blame while a third defendant named in the lawsuit was absolved again.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys presented many of the same arguments in the second lawsuit that helped them win their case the first time. They argued that Williams, key management figures and others had known for years that one of two reboilers used in the refinery process was isolated from pressure relief — which meant there was a risk of over-pressurization and explosion.

Attorneys on both sides have admitted the explosion could have been prevented if car seals costing less than $5 were tied onto the rebroiler valves. But defense attorneys previously asserted corporate officials were under the assumption the safety measures had been followed based on what they were told by plant managers.

In the second lawsuit, plaintiff Bryon Cotton will get damages totaling approximately $3.7 million for past and future medical bills, lost wages and mental anguish, and pain and suffering. Veronica Sowell was awarded about $4.5 million, Paul Thompson was awarded $5.7 million and Dakota Kelley is set to receive about $1.9 million in total damages.

“Williams Companies Inc. cannot accept fault for the Geismar plant explosion without taking full responsibility for it, and that means providing full compensation to the workers they hurt,” Kurt Arnold, another attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “Twice they’ve left it up to a jury to decide what is reasonable, and juries have awarded a combined $30 million for the FIRST eight workers who have taken their case to trial.”

Judge to decide whether jurors in deadly 2013 explosion trial can be paid for their feedback

Published: Monday, October 3rd 2016, 5:20 pm CDT
Updated: Monday, October 3rd 2016, 6:56 pm CDT
By: Kiran Chawla, Reporter

A judge is being asked to step in and decide whether lawyers for a chemical plant in Geismar can dole out cash to former jurors looking for feedback on a recent trial.

On September 26, an Iberville Parish jury ruled in favor of four contractors who were suing the Williams-Olefins company for an explosion left two people dead and more than 70 others injured on Thursday, June 13, 2013.

The jury found that two management groups, the Williams Companies Inc. and the Williams Olefins LLC, knew that employees were at risk before the explosion occurred.

The four contractors who were working at the plant on the day of the explosion and were injured. The trial lasted nearly three weeks with the jury also ruling the plant had to pay out more than $13 million.

Not even a week after that ruling, letters went out to people who served on the jury, reading in part:

“We are inviting the 12 people who served on the recent Williams Olefins jury to a group feedback session to discuss your jury service and your thoughts about the case. Your feedback, and your time, is very valuable to us, so we would like to offer you $100 for your participation in this 2-hour meeting.”
“They’re not breaking the law. It’s just unchartered water,” said Tony Clayton, who is representing the injured victims in the case. “To mail the jurors a letter and say, ‘Hey we want to talk to you and we will pay you $100 to talk to you,’ I just want some guidance from the court. We want the judge to tell us whether or not they can do this or not.”

That is why Clayton’s team filed an emergency motion Monday asking a judge to deny the “paid interrogation of jurors,” saying “Defense counsel should not be permitted to entice the participation of former jurors by promising $100 in compensation without the approval and supervision of this court.”

“If you’re paying these folks, are you questioning these folks to try to find a new trial?” Clayton asked.

The motion reads, “Defense counsel’s tactics are nothing more than a veiled attempt to inquire as to any juror misconduct in deliberations, and elicit grounds for an appeal of the verdict. The enticement of jury members to provide “feedback” in anticipation of the November 2, 2016 second trial on this matter is inappropriate and improper.”

A different jury will hear the November case.

After the recent verdict, William Olefins said in a statement that they would appeal the jury’s ruling.

“Whatever reason [the jury] came to their decision, is their reason,” said Clayton. “So when you offer folks $100 to come into a private setting with you and your lawyers to grill them, then they may say anything that these jurors were influenced by this or this verdict is not. Well now, you have an advantage to go attack the verdict saying, ‘Oh I talked to them. This is what they told me.’ Now you just made that juror a witness in your motion for a new trial.”

The letter that went out to jurors is signed by Dan Jacks with EDGE Litigation Consulting LLC.

His bio on the company’s website says “Dr. Dan Jacks loves to help attorneys persuade skeptical jurors. He believes jurors can still be convinced to find in favor of large corporations, even in today’s distrustful climate, as long as attorneys (and witnesses) can speak directly and clearly to jurors’ concerns.”

On Monday, a judge set a hearing for Tuesday afternoon on the matter.

The trial that wrapped up on Monday. Sept. 26 is the first of five civil trials against William Olefins.

William Olefins’ two-hour meeting with jurors is scheduled for Tuesday night, but whether that meeting happens will depend on what comes out of the court hearing. A lawyer for William Olefins’ would not comment other than to say he trusts the judge will rule appropriately.

Original Article Source: http://www.ksla.com/story/33307185/judge-to-decide-whether-jurors-in-deadly-2013-explosion-trial-can-be-paid-for-their-feedback

Woman awarded $51 million in New Orleans East 18-wheeler accident

By Wilborn P. Nobles III, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

A jury returned a $51.5 million judgment Tuesday (April 12) in a lawsuit filed by the family of a woman who was severely injured by a tractor-trailer truck in New Orleans East. Connie Jones Marable received what is thought “to be the largest jury award ever made” to a single plaintiff in Judge Piper Griffin’s division ofOrleans Parish Civil District Court, said Erin Bruce Saucier, one of her attorneys.

Marable was injured in 2012 in a Lowe’s Home Improvement parking lot on Read Boulevard after her husband’s 2007 Freightliner truck moved despite having its emergency brake on, according to the suit. Freightliner Trucks is a division of Daimler Trucks North America LLC.

The truck pinned her under its wheels and dragged her for some time, leaving her with “crushing physical injuries and a severe brain injury,” Saucier said. She has been in a “minimally conscious state under 24-7 nursing care” since then. Court filings indicate that her husband, Wayne, left the vehicle with the brake on. When it started moving forward anyway, she tried to help him stop it.

The suit was filed by her adult children, Bill and Engelique Jones against Daimler Trucks, her husband’s insurer and his employer, KLLM Transport Services LLC. In an email statement to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune on Wednesday, spokesman David Giroux said: “Daimler Trucks North America is confident in the safety of its products.” He said the company “is disappointed with the jury’s conclusion and is evaluating its next steps in response to the verdict.”

Connie Marable was represented by Saucier and Caleb Didriksen of Didriksen, Saucier, Woods & Pichon in New Orleans. She was also represented by the Port Allen-based Tony Clayton of Clayton, Fruge & Ward.

The attorneys said the jury found Daimler Trucks to be 90 percent at fault in the accident. Saucier said it was most likely due to the truck’s lack of safety features, which he said includes a deficient parking brake system.

Original article found at:

http://www.nola.com/traffic/index.ssf/2016/04/woman_new_orleans_east_truck_a.html

Plaquemine man gets plea deal in fatal shooting; prosecutor says arrest of lead investigator on drug counts was a factor

Prosecutor cites weaknesses in case

By Terry L. Jones

tjones@theadvocate.com

Cordias Walker
Cordias Walker

PLAQUEMINE — A Plaquemine man who was supposed to stand trial Tuesday for a 2012 murder has taken a plea deal in a case a District Attorney’s Office official says would have been difficult to prosecute, in part because the lead investigator in the case recently was arrested on drug-related counts.

Assistant District Attorney Tony Clayton said Cordias Walker, who was arrested in November 2012 for fatally shooting Wilbert Myles following a drug dispute, pleaded guilty late Monday evening to negligent homicide and will be sentenced to five years in prison.

Walker’s attorney has argued his client was acting in self-defense because Myles, 17, attacked Walker at Walker’s home.

“This is a prime example of a case where having to prove specific intent to kill was difficult when the victim went into the man’s house,” Clayton said Tuesday. “The credibility of all the friends there just made it a tough case to take to trial for second-degree murder.”

Clayton then added, “Not to mention, the lead detective is now sitting across from the defendant in the same jail cell.”

Clayton was referring to former Plaquemine police Officer Chad Fonseca, who turned himself in to authorities Dec. 29 after he was accused of selling prescription painkillers to undercover Iberville Parish sheriff’s deputies on three occasions in September.

Fonseca was booked into Iberville Parish jail on three counts of distribution of a Schedule II controlled dangerous substance. Iberville Sheriff Brett Stassi said Fonseca is being housed in isolation away from other inmates; his bail is set at $60,000, according to previous reports.

Walker’s attorney, Shannon Battiste, said previously the drug allegations against Fonseca certainly raised some credibility issues in the case against his client but said talk about Fonseca’s legal trouble was a “smoke screen” for other weaknesses in the prosecution’s murder case.

“Sometimes cases like this are hard to put together,” Clayton said Tuesday. “For the sake of the family, we took the best deal we could get from the defendant.”

Clayton said Fonseca, who left the Plaquemine Police Department in 2013 to take a job as an inspector for the city’s planning department, has worked as a detective in other pending cases in the parish, including “one or two more murders” and a number of drug cases.

Clayton said he intends to review those cases as well as previous convictions — particularly those on drug charges — that Fonseca had handled.

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.

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Former Plaquemine detective — wanted on drug counts and scheduled to testify in murder trial — surrenders Tuesday

By Bryn Stole

Chad Fonseca
Chad Fonseca

A former Plaquemine police detective wanted on drug counts — and wanted as a key witness in an upcoming Iberville Parish murder trial — surrendered Tuesday morning.

Chad Fonseca, who in 2012 led the investigation into the shooting death of Wilbert Myles, had been on the lam since he was accused of selling prescription painkillers to undercover Iberville Parish sheriff’s deputies on three occasions in September.

Plaquemine Police Chief Kenny Payne said Fonseca surrendered to agents with a joint Plaquemine-Iberia Parish drug task force about 9 a.m., hours after a front-page story in Tuesday’s Advocate about the hunt for the former detective hit doorsteps and computer screens.

Fonseca was booked into Iberville Parish jail on three counts of distribution of a Schedule II controlled dangerous substance. Iberville Sheriff Brett Stassi said Fonseca is being housed in isolation away from other inmates; his bail is set at $60,000.

Prosecutor Tony Clayton, who’d expressed concern in Tuesday’s Advocate about whether Fonseca would be located in time to testify in the murder trial of Cordias Walker in the shooting death of Myles, credited the news coverage with the apprehension of the former police officer. Walker’s trial is set to begin Jan. 5.

The Advocate’s “article flushed him out,” Clayton said.

Stassi said he thought Fonseca delayed his surrender while trying to gather bail money but “ran into a little problem getting people to back him.”

Defense attorney Shannon Battiste, who’s representing Walker, said the drug allegations against Fonseca certainly raise some credibility issues in the case against his client but said talk about Fonseca’s legal trouble was a “smoke screen” for other weaknesses in the murder case.

“The state has some bigger problems with this case,” Battiste said. “The biggest problem isn’t Chad Fonseca.”

Walker has maintained that he shot Myles, 17, in self-defense following a drug dispute in the 58000 block of Allen Street in Plaquemine.

Clayton, though, said he feels confident in the case against Walker. The assistant district attorney said Fonseca’s testimony would focus almost entirely on the collection of physical evidence and that there’s no indication Fonseca acted improperly in investigating the case.

“Am I concerned about Chad’s credibility? Yes, but I’m not concerned about the evidence,” Clayton said. “When you have a former detective charged with three counts, I’m going to take a butt whooping on cross examination. When officers do what Fonseca did, it has a ripple effect. I’m not going to kid myself and say he hasn’t caused a problem.”

Clayton said Fonseca also worked as a detective in other pending cases in the parish, including “one or two more murders” and a number of drug cases.

Clayton said he intends to review those cases as well as previous convictions — particularly those on drug charges — that Fonseca had handled.

“I’d rather see a hundred people go free than have one innocent man go to jail,” Clayton said. “I’m going to do my due diligence on people that are doing time because of Chad Fonseca.”

Fonseca, who worked for the department for five to seven years, left the department in 2013 to take a job as an inspector for the city’s planning department, the police chief said. Payne told The Advocate on Monday that Fonseca was never reprimanded for drug use during his time with the department. Payne and Stassi both said there is no indication the drugs referenced in the counts against Fonseca were taken from city police evidence.

The sheriff said Monday it appears painkillers prescribed to Fonseca following a motorcycle crash had got the former cop into the “drug life.”

If Fonseca hasn’t posted the $60,000 bail by the time the trial begins Tuesday, Clayton and Stassi said, the former detective would take the stand in a striped jumpsuit and wearing shackles.

“If he’s held in jail and called to testify, he’d testify in shackles. We wouldn’t try to hide that, understand?” Stassi said. “If he bonds out before then, he can come how he’s dressed.”

Advocate staff writer Steve Hardy contributed to this report.

Ex-Plaquemine police officer’s on the lam, could throw major kink into upcoming murder case

By Steve Hardy

shardy@theadvocate.com

Chad Fonseca
Chad Fonseca

Plaquemine — Iberville prosecutors are missing a key witness in an upcoming murder trial: a former police detective who is on the lam evading arrest on drug counts.

In November 2012, Plaquemine police arrested Cordias Walker in the death of Wilbert Myles, who was shot in the 58000 block of Allen Street following a drug dispute. Walker, who is scheduled for trial Jan. 5, has maintained he was acting in self-defense.

Plaquemine police officer Chad Fonseca was the lead detective in the case, but he may not be available to provide testimony. On three occasions in September, undercover deputies purchased prescription drugs from Fonseca, Iberville Sheriff Brett Stassi said. Earlier this month, his office identified Fonseca through social media as a wanted man.

Fonseca called a city detective from a restricted phone line and indicated he would turn himself in, Plaquemine police Chief Kenny Payne said. However, Fonseca made the call sometime before Christmas, and the chief isn’t sure whether Fonseca will be in custody by the time the trial starts next week.

Prosecutor Tony Clayton said he will do whatever he can to put Fonseca on the stand.

“I’m gonna bring him to court in shackles” if need be, the assistant district attorney said.

“He’s my main detective,” Clayton said. “He handled all the evidence. … He has created a serious issue for us.”

If Fonseca is still at large when the prosecution presents its case, Clayton said, the prosecution can introduce evidence through other officers involved in the case. However, defense attorney Shannon Battiste is already preparing to object to such a tack.

“I don’t know how they’re gonna introduce evidence that Fonseca collected without Fonseca,” Battiste said.

The defense attorney said his concern is less that the former detective has been implicated in a drug investigation and more that, should the DA’s Office present the evidence Fonseca collected, the defense would not be able to cross-examine him.

It’s possible the trial will be delayed. Two other murder trials are scheduled the same date. Prosecutors could request a continuance, which Battiste said he would fight. Or the two sides could try to strike a deal, an option Clayton said was offered before Fonseca went missing.

Battiste, however, still maintains Walker shot Myles only to protect himself.

“I think it’s the most perfect case of self-defense,” Battiste said. “Who’s going to plead guilty to defending himself at his own home?”

Battiste maintains that Myles attacked Walker at Walker’s home.

Payne, the police chief, said the DA’s Office has not contacted him about dropping the case against Walker or sending other officers to testify. According to court records, prosecutors have subpoenaed a dozen witnesses, and Payne points out that while Fonseca was the case detective, he didn’t investigate the shooting all by himself.

Neither the chief nor the prosecutor were immediately sure what effect Fonseca’s absence may have on other outstanding cases. Clayton does not believe the investigation of Fonseca will affect cases that already have closed.

Fonseca left the department in 2013 to take a job as an inspector for the city’s planning department, the chief said. Payne estimates Fonseca worked on the Plaquemine force for five to seven years and was never reprimanded for drug use during that time.

Payne and Stassi said there is no indication the drugs referenced in the counts against Fonseca were taken from city police evidence.

Stassi said it appears Fonseca had been in a motorcycle crash at some point and was prescribed painkillers, which got him into the “drug life.” Other particulars of Fonseca’s alleged crimes were unclear Monday, but he faces three counts of distribution of a schedule II controlled dangerous substance in relation to the three undercover Roxicodone buys in September, the sheriff said.

Payne believes Fonseca is still in Louisiana but not in the Plaquemine area.

Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.

Judicial pay study OK’d

By 

The state Judicial Compensation Commission on Monday  hired economist Loren Scott to look at Louisiana judges pay compared to their colleagues in other states.

Louisiana judges are already in line for annual 2.1 percent pay increases each July 1 through 2017 – part of a five-year planadopted by the Legislature in 2013.

Last year, the commission did not recommend additional pay increases opting to wait until the current compensation plan is approaching an end,

This year, the commission is gathering information as part of its legal obligation to report to the Legislature on whether judicial pay increases are needed.

“The state’s not necessarily flush with money although I don’t think it was in 2013 either,” commission chairman state Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, said. “It’s our obligation to take a look at it and make a recommendation, then it’s up to the Legislature whether to approve.”

Martiny said the commission recommendation could once again be to let the status quo continue.

The commission is required to meet annually to look at the pay of judges on the Supreme Court, appeals court, district court as well as parish and city courts. It looks at pay nationally and regionally and the makes recommendations to the Legislature on how local pay should be adjusted to keep pace.

Scott will be paid $20,000 to update judicial compensation data from a prior report he did for the commission. The commission agreed for Scott to also look at salaries at private sector law firms for lawyers with experience.

“I think it’s important we pay an appropriate salary to attract quality candidates to the judiciary,” commission member state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, said.

Different judges’ associations have agreed to pick up the expense of the report which is expected to be completed around Christmas.

The commission will meet again Jan. 4 to decide what route it will take.

Judges got varying pay increases in 2013 with Louisiana Supreme Court justices getting 5.5 percent; appeals court judges, 3.7 percent; and district court, parish and city court judges 4 percent. Then, the annual 2.1 percent kicked in the following year.

When the pay raise plan kicked in  Supreme Court justices were making about $151,800 a year, appellate judges about $144,300; district judges about $137,700; and city and parish judges about $66,500.

Baton Rouge ‘Amnesty Day’ draws hundreds seeking to pay tickets, clear warrants

By Danielle Maddox Kinchen

The anxious crowd that gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center early Saturday looked like it could have been gathered for a Black Friday holiday shopping sale.

But the deals being offered during an annual “amnesty day” in Baton Rouge were in many ways even sweeter — a chance to pay traffic tickets and clear bench warrants from the books without having to risk arrest.

Between 1,200 and 1,500 people showed up, starting as early as 6:30 a.m. to pay off their tickets or work with judges on-site to resolve their district and city court warrants, East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar C. Moore III and Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle said. One man showed with 25 outstanding warrants on his record, others with 10 or 11 on theirs.

The large crowd overwhelmed the staff, which was unable to service even a quarter of those who showed up. But officials said the day was a success nonetheless and sparked ideas on how to work with citizens more efficiently in the future.

The amnesty day comes amid political jousting in parish government over how to tackle the approximately 160,000 outstanding warrants, about 60 percent of which are for traffic violations, including many repeat offenders.

“It was huge,” Moore and Marcelle said during separate interviews, using identical words to describe the turnout.

More than 100 employees from multiple government agencies, including staff from the Community Center, set up shop at the center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to meet citizens’ needs.

Judges set aside bench warrants for unresolved traffic violations, allowing defendants to pay off the original fines and considered waiving traffic fees and imposing alternative sentences, including community service or reduced payments, for those not able to pay off the citations.

Marcelle said she saw people from all walks of life and who came from all over the state, including people from Monroe, Alexandria and Denham Springs, as well as someone who had come from Dallas to get a warrant recalled.

“Many of these people were elderly,” Marcelle said. “They came with walkers. I was stunned by people coming in with oxygen tanks.”

Once a few people went through the process and were not arrested, Marcelle said, word spread and others showed up to take care of their warrants.

In addition to asking for alternatives to fines, Moore said many came prepared to pay their tickets.

“I was very impressed by the response of the public and willingness to resolve these issues,” Moore said.

Marcelle said she and others working that day learned at least one obstacle to paying warrants that the city could address.

“What I’m hearing from public there needs to be an evening court or a Saturday court,” Marcelle said. “What I suggest to city court staff that we do a Saturday court once a month, half a day, and then we would see an influx of people paying their fines and less people skipping out on court.”

Despite their best efforts, team members from the various agencies involved were only able to address 250 to 300 people, officials estimated.

“I’m disappointed we weren’t able to handle every person that came,” Moore said. “Moving four or five courtrooms to an off-site location was a challenge.”

Those who didn’t manage to get in the door received “rain checks” — lime green slips for district warrants and pink slips for city warrants — that allow citizens the same opportunity this coming week.

Citizens with outstanding warrants in district court can go to the traffic division office in District Court Monday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with their rain check to resolve outstanding tickets. Those with warrants in City Court, which was the case for the majority according to Moore, can go to city court any time during business hours during the upcoming week to do the same.

Moore said if people can’t make it during that time period, they should hold onto the slip and come as soon as possible, though.

In the meantime, “if they are pulled over and stopped for these traffic violations, for these only, they will not be arrested if they have their rain checks with them,” Moore said.

Moore said he looks forward to holding another amnesty day, this time hopefully at the courthouse to speed up the process.

Other agencies in attendance included district and city court judges’ offices, the Baton Rouge Prosecutor’s Office, 19th District and City Clerk of Court, the Mayor’s Office, Baton Rouge Public Defender’s Office, the Constable’s Office, the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Baton Rouge Police Department.

“The biggest success for me was the good will that was shown by all our offices and how it was reciprocated by the people,” Moore said.

Follow Danielle Maddox Kinchen on Twitter, @Dani_Maddox4.

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John Bel Edwards announces transition team for economic development issues: Read the list of names

By: Elizabeth Crisp

Louisiana Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards continues to roll out the names of his closest advisers on key issues as he prepares to take office Jan. 11.

On Friday, Edwards’ transition team announced a group that will provide recommendations on economic development issues, including jobs training, research and development at colleges and universities and workforce development.

“Louisiana has always had a strong workforce and we need to ensure this workforce is attractive to diverse industries, while also responsibly incentivizing business and industry to invest in our state,” Edwards said in a statement. “This committee is critical to our long-term economic stability, and I’m confident they’ll help me develop a plan that is mutually beneficial to the citizens of Louisiana and industry.”

AT&T Louisiana President Sonia Perez and Greater New Orleans Inc. CEO Michael Hecht will co-chair the committee.

Other members include:

  • Calvin Braxton, CEO of Braxton Land Company and President of Natchitoches Ford-Lincoln-Mercury. He also serves on the Southern University System board.
  • Terrell Clayton, owner of Clayton Enterprises, a developer of affordable housing units in New Orleans.
  • Charles D’Agostino, executive director of LSU Innovation Park & Louisiana Business and Technology Center.
  • Joe Delpit, president of Joe Delpit Enterprises and owner of Chicken Shack, the oldest known continuously operating restaurant in Baton Rouge. He previously served in the state House.
  • Erika McConduit Diggs, President and CEO of Urban League of Greater New Orleans
  • Jason Engles, executive secretary and treasurer of Central South Carpenters Regional Council.
  • Fran Gladden, vice president of government and public affairs at Cox Communication. She previously worked for Louisiana Economic Development.
  • Rodney Greenup, president of Gulf South Engineering and Testing.
  • Roy Griggs, President and CEO of Griggs Enterprises, which operates McDonalds restaurants and hotels through franchising.
  • Robert “Tiger” Hammond, president of New Orleans AFL-CIO and Louisiana State Building Trades.
  • Randall Hithe, Owner of Hithe Enterprises, which operates custodial services and property management, among other services, including contracts for hospitals, hotels, higher education institutions, and secondary and elementary schools.
  • Sibal Holt, president of Holt Construction and former head of the Louisiana AFL-CIO.
  • Jeff Jenkins, Partner with Bernhard Capital Partners, a private equity firm that focuses on the energy sector.
  • John Jones, senior vice president of public policy and governmental relations with CenturyLink.
  • Adam Knapp, CEO of Baton Rouge Area Chamber​ who served in economic development roles under Govs. Mike Foster (R) and Kathleen Blanco (D).
  • Curtis Mezzic, business manager of Plumbers and Steamfitters, Local 60.
  • Scott Martinez, president of North Louisiana Economic Partnership.
  • Phillip May, CEO of Energy Louisiana.
  • Charlie Melancon, Owner of CMA, LLC, and former congressman who lost to Edwards’ Republican rival U.S. Sen. David Vitter in a 2010 senate race.
  • Don Pierson, senior director of business development for Louisiana Economic Development.
  • Bonita Robertson, site director of New Orleans Works.
  • Gale Potts Roque, a member Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry
  • Robert “Bobby” Savoie, CEO of Geocent.
  • Lloyd N. “Sonny” Shields, attorney at Shields Mott, LLP.
  • Glen Smith, CEO of Magnolia Companies.
  • Collis Temple, former LSU basketball star and owner of Harmony Center, Inc., a system of residential health and mental health facilities serving foster children, the developmentally disabled, and adjudicated youth and adults.
  • Chris Tyson, professor of law at LSU Law Center and former candidate for secretary of state.
  • Ginger Vidrine, an attorney and Democrat who recently lost a state senate run against an incumbent Republican.
  • Lisa Walker, CEO and President of Health Systems 2000.
  • Arlanda Williams, vice-chairwoman of the Terrebonne Parish Council.
  • Sevetri Wilson, CEO of Solid Ground Innovations, LLC.

Court of Appeal upholds decision favoring Vermilion Parish in border war with Lafayette Parish

By Richard Burgess

rburgess@theadvocate.com

Lafayette Parish has lost another round in its long-running border war with Vermilion Parish over the location of the parish line.

In an opinion released Wednesday, the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a ruling earlier this year by a trial judge who sided with Vermilion Parish in the dispute.

Lafayette Parish now will ask the state Supreme Court to review the issue, said Gary McGoffin, who is representing city-parish government in the legal fight to push the boundary a little farther south.

At stake is about 1,000 to 1,200 acres.

The boundary was created in 1844, when Vermilion Parish was carved out Lafayette Parish, but there have long been questions about the precise location of the parish line.

“Unfortunately, with regard to the boundary line between the two parishes, the enabling legislation referenced then-standing timber as boundary landmarks, and as time passed, those landmarks disappeared,” the appeals judges wrote in a 12-page opinion upholding the decision favoring Vermilion Parish.

In an effort to clear up the uncertainty, Vermilion and Lafayette parishes agreed in 2002 to have the State Land Office research the line, and the two parishes committed to adopting whatever boundary the land office drew.

Lafayette city-parish officials questioned the outcome, alleging the new line was based on incomplete historical research.

The issue came to a head in 2013, when the Lafayette City-Parish Council voted to back out of the 2002 agreement, prompting a lawsuit from Vermilion Parish seeking to keep it in place.

Vermilion Parish officials argue a deal is a deal and downplay the questions over the accuracy of the parish line.

City-parish government has argued a critical issue is whether the 2002 agreement actually moved the parish boundary, rather than pinpoint where it originally was — an important distinction because moving a boundary requires the approval of voters in both parishes.

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