Questions raised about Sorrento Councilman and $77,500


imagejpeg_1Recently Sorrento Mayor Mike Lambert received a phone call to inform him that a work crew had commenced to cut a section out of Main St., the small town’s primary thoroughfare. Lambert arrived on the scene to witness a work crew from a company named Circle M operating a concrete saw. The crew was attempting to remove a large section of the roadway between Trabeaux St. and Guedry St. in the southbound lane of travel.

The Creole has learned that a check in the amount of $77,500 drawn on Sorrento’s account was cashed by a company called Design & Build sometime in mid-2012 for the work being performed by Circle M a year later. The cancelled check is in the possession of Sorrento’s current town attorney and was signed by Councilman Randy Anny. The Creole has further learned that an investigation into the matter has been initiated by Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office (APSO).

We have also learned that Roy Maughan, Jr. is listed as the Registered Agent for both Design & Build and another company involved in this issue, H & O, according to the Secretary of State. Maughan Jr. happens to be the attorney for Councilman Randy Anny in a matter before U.S. District Court-Eastern District of Louisiana. Maughan denies any close or longstanding connection with Anny though Maughan confirmed that Anny owes a debt to Roy Maughan, Sr. which is evidenced by a promissory note on file in St. James Parish.

The existence of a contract between Sorrento and Design & Build Consultants, LLC was found, which pertained to the work in question.  According to Councilman Anny, a Special Meeting was held approving both the contract and the payment in 2012. Still further investigation determined that Design & Build had subbed out the work to H & O, LLC which, in turn, apparently subbed it out to Circle M.

Randy Anny’s home was scheduled for sheriff’s sale on June 6, 2012, pursuant to Case No. 101,260 filed by J. P. Morgan bank in the 23rd Judicial District, only weeks before the supposed meeting occurred.  The property was spared after payment to the plaintiff of $36,182.85.

Design & Build is a company that has been certified to receive special consideration in the awarding of government contracts due to the fact that its majority owner is a disabled veteran who happens to be an African-American.

The Creole did receive two calls from persons claiming to speak for the company handling the work.  A gentleman who identified himself as “Randy Gomez” made contact Tuesday morning but could shed no light on the matter at hand.  Randy Gomez is listed by the Louisiana Secretary of State as an officer in H & O Equipment, LLC, the company to which Design & Build subbed the work.

Later on Tuesday, The Creole was contacted by Roy Maughan Jr. He denied any wrongdoing by Design & Build with regard to the contract at issue.  He claimed that Design & Build is still owed over $60,000.

As to Design & Build’s disabled veteran/African-American owner, he is not talking, at least to The Creole.  The Creole learned from a reliable source that he has denied any knowledge that the contract in question exists.  He claims to be unaware that Design & Build ever received a check in the amount of $77,500 from Sorrento.

“I had no idea what was going on,” said a baffled Mike Lambert.  “I was not aware of any work order dealing with any issue in that area of town.”

Lambert proceeded to investigate the matter with the Circle M workmen after he had halted the project.

“I was told that they were cutting out the portion of Main St. to access a sewer line and perform certain repairs.  It was the first I had heard of the project,” said Lambert who was inaugurated on July 1 of this year.

imagejpeg_0Not yet a month on the job, Mike Lambert is only beginning to realize how dysfunctional his predecessor’s administration really was.  A project the size of the one being performed by Circle M on that early July day requires a sizable appropriation from Sorrento revenues and such an appropriation requires an ordinance by the Town Council.

La. Revised Statute 33:462 states “All expenditures of money for any purpose whatever shall be in pursuance of a specific appropriation made by order and in no other manner…”  The excerpt is from the Lawrason Act which regulates how Louisiana municipalities are governed.  Lambert was aware of no such action by Sorrento’s council and scoured the official minutes of the council meetings to no avail.  No minute entry exists in the official record of Sorrento council meetings which addresses the work being performed that day.

If this all sounds strange, it gets stranger.  The law requires Sorrento to appropriate the funds for the contract at issue, which requires a meeting of the town council.  Even though Anny stated a meeting did occur, no record of any such meeting exists in Sorrento’s minute logs.  According to those logs no meeting was conducted from June 19-July 12, 2012.

At the time, then Mayor Wilson Longanecker, Jr. had taken a leave of absence and Councilman Randy Anny had assumed mayoral duties, including authority to write checks for the town.  Anny insists that a Special Meeting did take place, he believes around July 2, 2012.  The meeting was not open to the public and Town Clerk Paige Robert could not attend due to a prior commitment.

According to Anny, former Councilman Jason Adams made the motion to approve the agreement with Design & Build and former Councilman Milton “Needlenose” Vicknair seconded.  Only one other councilman was there, John Wright or Marvin Martin. Anny could not recall which, and the motion passed unanimously.

As for the minutes which are required to be kept, Anny recalled someone else taking on that responsibility.

“I believe the Town Attorney (Donovan Hudson) was taking notes and put those notes in the file,” Anny said.

Those notes were supposed to have been transcribed in the official minutes by Town Clerk Robert.  She stated that she received the file but no notes were included.

Town Attorney Donovan Hudson was questioned by The Creole.

“I don’t know anything about the meeting or the contract with Design & Build,” Hudson responded.  “From late June of 2012 until after the Fourth of July, I was in Georgia.  I could not have attended a meeting in Sorrento.  This is the first I’m hearing of it.”

“Wasn’t there a tape recording of the meeting?” Hudson asked.  “It’s my understanding that the official minutes are the recording.”

What about the tape recording?

“The tape recording equipment was locked in the safe,” said Randy Anny.  “Paige (Town Clerk Robert) and Mrs. Fern (Barnett)” were not present “and we didn’t have the combination.”

One could argue, as former Town Attorney Hudson did, that whatever transpired cannot legally be considered a town meeting and therefore, no appropriation was made, vitiating any contractual arrangement between Sorrento and Design & Build.

Legalities aside, it is certain that Design & Build cashed the check.


Comments

  1. Raoul Woffleton III says:

    I wonder what the possible outcomes of this may be.

  2. " He went that a-way" seems the be the order of the day, as usual , lolol. And the blame game is like playing hot potato,.. sooner or later it drops at some suckers feet.

  3. Wade, you forgot to mention the existence of a memo from the town attorney, Mr Hudson approving the contract to Design and Build dated July 3,2012. It appears you failed to fully investigate the facts before writing your article. Perhaps you should check with the town clerk next time prior to publication. Is a retraction in order?

  4. Brenda Melancon says:

    Why would you pay a contractor a year before the work is done? As a former Town Clerk and former mayor of Sorrento, I can say that no work was ever paid for until after the work was done and approved.

  5. Charlotte says:

    Thank you so much for your readership, Mr. Maughan. We ask that you reread the article, as it clearly states, in quotes from Mr. Hudson, that he was unaware of the contract. If you have information that conflicts this, please present it to us for review. We would be happy to release that to our readers. As for the Town Clerk, also in the article it states that she received no minutes from any meeting regarding a contract. We researched this and went with quoted information, therefore, no, we do not feel a retraction is in order. If you would like to further discuss, please email news@thecreole.com. Thanks you – Charlotte Guedry, Editor in Chief.

  6. I need to try to understand some things here. FIRST Mr. Anny said initially in response to questions from “The Creole” that: A) the authority to proceed with this “contract” and the associated payment, was a result of a meeting that took place on or about July 2, 2012; B) Mr. Anny stated he remembered DETAILS of this meeting…(i.e. – (i) Who was present; (ii) Who made the motion to approve the contract and the payment, (iii) Who seconded the motion, (iv) who took notes for the official record of the meeting….). NOW it is being asserted that I, Donovan Hudson, wrote an e-mail or a memo, dated July 3,2012, that served to approve the contract with Design and Build & Sorrento. HOW is this not a COMPLETE change of explanation of why Mr. Anny believed the issuance of the check was proper? Did any meeting take place July 2nd or not? AND…..Was the meeting described in detail by Mr. Anny the basis for the issuance of the check or is the asserted basis my e-mail alone? If it was only the e-mail then why the information about a claimed meeting NO ONE ELSE REMEMBERS and WHICH I COULD NOT HAVE ATTENDED? (if memory serves neither could Mr. Jason Adams as he did not join the council until after the 2nd of July 2012)

    Now ANY check of my blackberry records will show that any e-mail or fax communications I had on or about July 2nd and/or 3rd of 2012 took place with my location being in Florida having gone there after leaving Georgia the previous week. This factual evidence, further supported by travel financial records as well as numerous local witnesses, precludes my attending a meeting in Sorrento on those dates. My communications, to the very best of my memory, contain no reference to a contract between Design and Build and the Town of Sorrento. (I do not recall a memo on this subject and if there is one it should be in the record and I hope is self explanatory.) The e-mail I believe Mr. Maughan is referring to is a general response to a question. The question and the resulting answer were intended to say that if the council had previously properly appropriated and approved funds for an emergency matter and the entity that was originally approved could not perform and the emergency still existed then the council could approve some other entity doing the same approved work for the same approved amount. The communication was NOT an approval of a wholly new appropriation, but rather was only an informal opinion that under specific emergency circumstances the council could re-direct already appropriated funds to an entity able to perform emergency services when the original contractor proved unable. It seems that most of the communication took place by phone with me SPEAKING to the town clerk by phone about the details of this matter.

    It is interesting to note Mr. Maughan’s intimate knowledge of the communications of the town of Sorrento but apparent lack of such similar level of communication with the owner of Design and Build. If in fact Mr. Maughan is in communication with the owner of Design and Build I hope he would encourage the owner to come forward to clarify matters. As a certified disadvantaged business enterprise the owner MUST be the operative decision maker for the day to day operations and head management. The Design and Build owner could hopefully provide some very useful information that might put an end to this matter and help restore some confidence to the people of Sorrento in their government. I enjoyed meeting and getting to know the citizens of Sorrento. I am concerned that this matter seems to be further sullying a community of wonderful citizens that deserve a government that functions to provide a high level of basic governmental function and service with less soap-operatic drama.

  7. Raoul Woffleton III says:

    Hudson is on top of his game, Maughan. You may want to label someone else the scapegoat.

  8. Barrye says:

    Every time Sorrento is in the news it seems Randy Anny’s name is always in the the midst of the story. Nothing good has come from his leadership for the town.

  9. Seems like the writer or the writers source has it out for sorrento or someone in sorrento!!

    • Umm-- Helloo?? says:

      How can you say the writer has it out for Sorrento?!? It’s an INVESTIATION . He is reporting NEWS. Although if you saw this on WAFB tomorrow- you’d be wondering why you haven’t heard about it sooner..

  10. Rose Little says:

    Wade, this is a great investigation and story. Keep up the good work!

  11. Yes I know it’s an investigation … Maybe he needs to do a full investigation and get all the facts …. before he writes about the town or people.

  12. Wow!! Have y”all read the comments on these articles… Looks like the truth is coming out! I’m wondering is a retraction in order now?
    http://www.thecreole.com/?p=14246
    http://www.thecreole.com/?p=14195
    http://www.thecreole.com/?p=14373

  13. Concerned citizen says:

    “”We have to open ourselves up to welcoming the media into all aspects of our government, said Lambert.”No arguments, no lies. We have to allow them to see us positively working to make this town better.” Mayor you hours remember your comments. No lies remember. The files were turned over to the new town attorneys before you and they were even sworn in. And they even charged the town a previous balance. How can they bill the town for previous dates of July 2nd if they were not sworn in til 630 at night and they didn’t go to your after get together at the church. Sounds like your vendetta started before you took office. And paid with public funds for your personal vendetta. Hope they go after you for that because your personal vendetta and clouded judgement has affected this good town. Why don’t you tell the people your real agenda to abolish the town however you can do it.