October 25, 2013

There have been events in Mandeville, in the past year that motivated us to bring this site up to date. Scroll down.

March 25, 2012

 The good news is that three of the four non politicians that ran for council positions won office. There will be more to be said later on the mayors race. We made a statement on the council page that Randy Russell was Jerry Coogan's attorney, that was an assumption, when all we really knew was that he was the agent for Jerry's
Hardware store filing. We strive to only place truthful facts on the website, and wish to make that clear.

 March 30, 2012 the first circuit court of appeal denied Mayor Villere's motion to quash a subpoena for a second deposition in the state ethics board investigation into the charges made by the board for distributing untruthful information about his opponent in his 2010 campaign. This is page 8 of that decision and the complete
document is here. 

The council voted on a resolution to hire the city engineer to perform inspection work for the pedestrian bridge
last fall. The city engineers contract with the city states that he will be paid $150 per hour to perform inspections.
The pedestrian bridge construction contract calls for the work to be completed in six months, which means that
the inspections to ensure the work meets the codes and construction documents and to certify the construction
draw requests would require at least 6 such inspections. Inspection work is performed by the hour as construction work nearly always requires more inspections as the work progresses. An average inspection for a bridge should
not take more than a few hours, so if you were to triple the  estimate for this work it could be as much as $9000.
The resolution voted on did not specify the amount, due obviously to the engineers contract with the city. We made
a record request to inspect engineering fees, and this project was not given to us. We asked about it and the
city clerk then went and got the contract from his office. The contract clearly states a " Lump Sum " fee of
$80,000 to perform the inspections, for 6 months. This was signed by the Mayor on October 28, 2011. This is
almost what is paid to the head of the public works department for a year, and the salary for that position is
45% more than the average paid to other  cities in Louisiana of comparable size. Hopefully with the new council taking office in July this gross mis management of our tax dollars can be curtailed.

October 14, 2013

The city of Mandeville has one of the highest tax rates in the state. Our property taxes and sales taxes should be lowered as per the recommendation the Mayor's citizens finance committee report of June 14, 2012. That report has been stuffed by the administration due to the embarrassing facts and recommendations made by educated and informed citizens. The current council is starting work on a rededication of those tax rates for next year. Mandeville has a surplus of 17 million dollars and growing in the worse recession since WWII. This report has been edited by the administration. Notice that Mandeville does not have a fire department, that is supplied by the Parish.
 Take the fire department figures out of the other towns and and recalculate the figures and Mandeville then becomes the highest spender

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The lot resubdivision for this townhome project located at the Mandeville Trailhead was denied by the zoning commission in July 2013. The project is nothing more than a repeat of what has already been built. click on this pdf file to view the site.

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  1. The planning Director told the zoning commission that a precedent would be set if they were to approve the resub of the lot, as two of the lots were less than 3000 sq. feet. In 2005 and 2006 two of the prior lots were resubdivided at less than 3000 sq. feet.

629_Lafitte_St..pdf490.1 KB2092_94_Survey.pdf
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An application for an appeal was made as stated in the CLURO and then returned, with a letter stating that the only appeal that could be made had to be made in court. This was later determined to an illegal denial of an appeal by the planning director.

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Upon study of the CLURO it was discovered that there is a statement in the CLURO that is direct to the point of minimum square foot lots in the Towncenter zoning. 

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Further study of the CLURO resulted in a section that provides for an appeal if information was given to the zoning board that was in error or an ommission of facts were not given to the board.

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This letter was written to the chairman of the planning commission requesting a meeting to bring these facts to the board.

The letter was hand delivered to the city for delivery to Mr. Dennis Thomas chairman of the Planning board and a receipt signed by the receptionist on a Tuesday morning. There was a zoning meeting that evening, but Mr. Thomas never received the letter. Another letter was sent addressed to both Mr Nixon Adams, chairman of the zoning board and Mr. Thomas chairman of the planning commission and a receipt signed for by the city receptionist. This letter from Ms. Kidd was received the following saturday reinterating that the only avenue for appeal was court

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Ms. Kidd not only did not deliver a letter addressed to the chairman of the planning commission, but she responded for him.

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Mr. Blache, Mr. Thomas, and Ms. Bush, all members of the board then asked for a special meeting to get these facts out to the public.

That resulted in this letter from the city. 

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The response to that letter.

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In the public record audio tapes of that meeting, Mr. Adams, Ms Kidd, and Mr. Clark, attempt to show why the facts should " not " be allowed to be discussed on the record.
Those tapes are too large to post on this site. The tapes also reveal that the advertisement for the meeting was written incorrectly, which  effectively voided the meeting

and any vote by the board to do anything. The advertisement was written by the city attorney. The city attorney also mentioned  in these tapes, that there were issues in the
CLURO appeal process that were in violation of state law. In the summer of 2014 discovery by the Trace Units attorney resulted in the fact that the first lot resub in 2003 the minimum lot size was much greater at 7200 sq. feet in the towncenter zoning. The minimum lot size requirement was for determining how many residential units could be located on a lot. One for every 7200 sq. feet. The first lot has a total of 11,172 sq. feet allowing only 1.5 residential units. There are four residential condominiums in the mixed use building resulting in the first variance as to lot size. In 2005 another lot was resubdivided with less than 3000 sq. feet with the minimum lot size being on 7200 sq. feet and and live/work townhome was constructed on the lot resulting in a second variance. In 2006 a third lot was resubdivided into a lot with less than 3000 sq. feet and a residential duplex built upon the lot resulting in two variances, one for the minimum lot size and one for the two residential units. The remaining  lot had a size of only 4913 sq. feet resulting in a fifth variance. There were variances granted on every lot subdivided from the beginning in 2003 as to lot size.

This denial of the lot resubdivision to build these townhomes and the manipulation of the zoning board by the administration has more to do with this website than any concern about lot size in the towncenter. Trace Units LLC has since filed a lawsuit against the city of mandeville administration in July of 2014.

. The Mandeville trailhead was dedicated in 2000  and after nearly 14 years the only change
has been the addition of the parking lot on Lafitte St north of the bike trail since then. The " Towncenter " zoning was originally conceived to drive out the light construction
at the trailhead ( the millwork building & Swimming pool business ) Both of those properties have been for sale for years now. The " Mayor " has stated on many occasions that he did not think it was good for Mandeville to acquire these properties and finish the public green square that would result around the bike trail. So we will have an abandoned building and Pool business with maintenance yard for years to come
, until the coming inflation begins that will be necessary to offset the last 5 years of the government printing money. Then these properties would best be developed as more housing as the increase in land values would  make it much more feasible than selling. The irony in that is that it is in direct conflict with the faux attempt to control density by refusing the resubdivision of the lots for the three townhomes.

November 13, 2013

This story on the front page of the Times Picayune today.

The most amazing part of this story is that the Mayor of Mandeville is the only individual at city hall that has been charged with an ethics violation concerning false advertising in the election to replace the former Eddie Price. No where is this fact mentioned. He won that by 3 votes and has refused to respond to a subpoena by the ethics board for a second deposition. He has taken that all the way to the state supreme court and lost. The new website has also been changed to make it more difficult to make record requests. Its a continuance of the smoke and mirrors of non transparency by this administration.

This is one of the many stories on the mayor's ethics

This Email from Ernest Burguières after the January 23 2014 council meeting.

Last night was one of the toughest council meetings I have experienced. It dealt with amending the budget relating to employee health insurance. The mayor presented his plans to employees and council members on Wednesday, January 22nd in a 3 o’clock meeting at City Hall. I could not attend because of the short notice. A day later we were presented with a $400,000.+ budget adjustment to pay for the plan the mayor selected. The mayor did select a plan that increased some of the costs and co-pays, but nonetheless added almost a half million dollars to City healthcare cost, just for this year. Some may recall that just a couple of month’s ago there was a passionate Council meeting involving adding two new employee positions at a cost to the City of over $200,000. We were told we had plenty of money.
Some have analyzed this expenditure and concluded that in a couple of years it will break the City. The City disagrees. Unfortunately we did not get sufficient time to evaluate the consequences of this proposal. Does a council rush in to a half million dollar decision with no thought as to the long term consequences? At the beginning of the meeting I made a motion to defer voting on this issue for 7 days in order to evaluate the long term consequences. I told the mayor that if we waited 7 days I would come in with an open mind, otherwise, I had to vote against it. The mayor refused.
An hour before the Council meeting I saw a loose-leaf binder from HUB, the health insurance consultant hired by the City. It was maybe 100 pages of analysis and alternatives. In one section there was a grid of maybe a dozen insurance package alternatives and their cost. There were packages that increased out of network costs, deductions and co-pays that were substantially cheaper than the package we were presented with. I did not know this book existed, but apparently it was presented to the City on or about January 6th , over two weeks ago. One citizen suggested I should have asked for it. How do you ask for something that you don’t know exists?
As an attorney who does litigation it is not uncommon to come across adversaries with whom you must check every statement and assume nothing. The mayor – council relationship is not litigation. It is two co-equal branches of government that have the same goal; the welfare of its citizens. Sharing information makes for a better process and a better decision. Waiting until the last minute to present an issue does not promote a better decision.
Judging by last night’s emotional meeting I expect there are many City employees who are upset with the Council’s decision. I don’t blame them. I do blame an administration that does not share information with the people that he needs to accomplish what he wants, i.e., the Council.
If the Council is required to vote on a package it has a right, no, it has an obligation to review the package and evaluate it to make sure it is the best decision. To suggest that a body such as the council must approve (or disapprove) of a proposal without reviewing the proposal is nonsense. Withholding information and presenting an important issue with no time for review or debate is not the way to handle tough decisions. Good decisions are never made in haste.
The mayor may not enjoy sharing information and he may not like some Council members. In my law practice it is not uncommon to not get along with your opponent or his client. Does that mean you pout and refuse to deal with it? No. Sometimes you need to get past that for the common good and the good of the client, in this case the citizens and employees of the City of Mandeville. A missed opportunity.
Ernest A. Burguières
Councilman, District 3

The Mayor's actions in presenting the options were very similar to Obama's during the govt shut down. Obama selectively closed that which would bother and hurt the people the most to pit them against Conservatives who took a stand. Similarly, the Mayor presented the worst case scenario despite there being better options to pit the council against the employees to distract from the Mayor's complacency with this issue.

Now the Mayor acts this week with this :

The big question is, why wasn't this done in the first place? This was the process the mayor told the council to follow last year.The councils only role in health benefits is to give him a number (They did in August when they adopted the budget), then he goes and finds a plan after negotiating with a broker.

 At last Thursday nights council meeting, he said there was no time for any other meeting and no other plan available. Three of the council men take a stand and vote against the budget amendment. Then he miraculously finds a good plan that the employees like that is within budget? After dis-inviting two councilman to the Monday meeting (Ellis and Burguieres were set to go and the mayor told them not to come).

  Why didnt the mayor do this in the first place? It would have saved many low paid employees a lot of heartache over last weekend. It's a shame and typical of this Mayor.

March 21, 3015

The attorney who represented Trace Units LLC in the lawsuit filed in July of 2014, had to withdraw due to health reasons and a new attorney took
over the case in January. After reviewing the audio records of the zoning meeting concerning the case, from the city, he filed an amendment to the
original petition and added the Mayor Donald Villere, the city attorney Edward Deano, the chairman of the zoning board Nixon Adams, and the planning director, Louiestte Kidd, personally. In November of 2013 a petition was delivered to the city by 69% of the property owners in the 
town center district, once it was discovered that the 3000 foot minimum lot size could be eliminated by a petition of at least 50% of the property owners in the district. It has been ignored by the planning director and a legal opinion given by the city attorney that the CLURO only provided for a zoning classification change. This after the Trace Units attorney provided an opinion, with case law precedents, that the petition was entirely within the law. The amended lawsuit that was filed on March 13th of this year and The attorneys opinion letter and the property owners petition,are attached here.

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Trace Units Petition:3-9-15.pdf
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