FBI said to be probing LCG drainage contractor, potential relationship with Mayor-President Josh Guillory
The FBI is scrutinizing the company at the heart of two controversial LCG drainage projects and its potential relationship with Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory, according to three people who have been questioned by federal agents.
The agency is taking a “global” approach, according to those who voluntarily sat for interviews, exploring a range of issues already drawing scrutiny, including lucrative contracts awarded without bids to Rigid Constructors. Agents have shown a particular interest in the company’s involvement in the project to secretly remove spoil bank levees in St. Martin Parish earlier this year.
That LCG simply attached a $3.8 million change order to a $390,000 contract awarded to Rigid through a bid process, rather than bid the new drainage work, caught the FBI’s attention, according to a source who spoke with agents and has extensive experience in investigations by both regulatory and law enforcement agencies. “It was also clear that they found it strange that much of the work under that contract was performed under the dark of night,” the source says. “What they’re struggling with is whether the activity rises to a level of criminality or violates any federal regulation or federal law.”
Rigid is the Lafayette-based industrial construction company awarded the bulk of Lafayette Parish’s drainage work in the past year. So far this year, LCG has paid Rigid $54 million, on at least two occasions making payments by wire transfer.
Following standard protocol for most federal agencies, local FBI agents Daniel English and Doug Herman would neither confirm nor deny whether an official investigation into LCG’s drainage projects is underway.
The FBI’s interest comes on the heels of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s investigations into LCG’s furtive removal of spoil banks in St. Martin Parish in February. Last month the Corps, which is investigating whether LCG needed a federal permit for the spoil banks work, confirmed in a footnote to a legal motion that it had called in the EPA to investigate “flagrant, willful violations” in executing the removal of decades-old levees in St. Martin Parish, a project now locked in two contentious lawsuits.
Investigators appear to have initially homed in on Rigid. A construction industry veteran has met with investigators several times since 2021. At a meeting with five agents earlier this month, their conversation centered squarely on any potential relationship between Guillory and Rigid Constructors’ CEO, Cody Fortier. (The early August meeting coincides with online sleuths identifying a U.S. Department of Justice plane landing in Lafayette that week.)
Agents have also expressed interest in Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s side businesses, those interviewed say.
In recent weeks, Guillory’s attempts to increase his $122,000 full-time mayor-president’s salary were brought to light by The Current. The city-parish charter prohibits the mayor-president from outside employment that would interfere with his official duties. Despite that, Guillory has gone to great lengths to supplement an income he feared would be inadequate upon taking office, according to public filings and interviews with people knowledgeable about the mayor-president’s efforts to find additional work. Since his election, Guillory has taught classes at UL, continued to take on legal work and formed three LLCs, including an equipment supply firm. Guillory has not explained what the other two LLCs do.
Neither Mayor-President Guillory nor Rigid’s Fortier responded to questions about whether either had been contacted by the FBI, nor did they respond to a general request for comment.
Guillory has been unapologetic about his quick-paced — and unorthodox — approach to delivering projects, despite escalating legal costs from three ongoing lawsuits in an overall program that plans to spend more than $100 million in taxpayer money.
The potential legal exposure prompted the City Council in early June to issue more than two dozen questions and requests for documents to the administration, many related to Rigid Constructors. Guillory has refused to answer the council’s questions, saying the LCG staff did not have time to devote to the inquiry; he suggested the City Council bring the Parish Council on board and hire a “qualified, independent party” to provide answers.
Choosing to go it alone, City Council members are still contemplating exactly what that will entail, whether it be hiring an independent auditor, an investigator or some combination of both. Should it launch an investigation, the City Council would by charter have subpoena power. City Council Chairwoman Nanette Cook says a resolution will be on the Sept. 6 agenda, as will a budget revision ordinance to fund the independent inquiry.
In late July, the mayor-president announced he was checking himself into a 21-day rehab program for alcohol and PTSD treatment. Since his return from rehab, Guillory has made media rounds to talk about his road to recovery and brush off criticism.
With his efforts to supplement his income, likely while in rehab, now out in the open, Guillory has sought to downplay the potential for conflict or distraction from his duties.
“It’s something I’m passionate about, and I can provide a little more for my family,” he said during his regular appearance on KPEL last week. “I don’t apologize for it.”
The mounting revelations have drawn criticism even among his supporters.
“Being in rehab and representing a legal client and still trying to be mayor-president … I would say that there are a lot of questions here about whether the mayor was being totally honest with us,” conservative radio host Carol Ross said this week.
“This is on top of several other … impetuous decisions to go forward with drainage projects that maybe weren’t cleared properly. The mayor needs to step back, take a deep breath and consider some of his decisions before rushing into anything. … I think he did a good job initially. At some point I believe he’s lost his way.”
- Posted on August 24, 2022 4:58 pm
- Section: News + Notes
- Topics: Bayou Vermilion Flood Control, FBI, Flooding, Josh Guillory, Lafayette, Lafayette Consolidated Government, Louisiana, Politics, Rigid Constructors