COOK-ING IT UP

   

Nanette Cook (2/10) is not a freshman councilman. Cook served on the Lafayette City-Parish Consolidated Council from 2015 until its dissolution before sliding into her current seat on the Lafayette City Council. She has been involved in serving up quite a few unpleasant dishes during her tenure in office –

As her scorecard reflects, she is not anything close to being a guardian of the public treasury. Someone with less experience in her role would probably get a pass on these kinds of decisions. However, with plenty of time under her wings it is safe to say she is just lousy. Coupled with Cook’s blind eye when it comes to obvious conflicts of interest, it’s just a recipe for disaster.

Maison Mouton Bed and Breakfast

If you pay attention to the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s sales, you may have noticed that the Maison Mouton Bed and Breakfast is coming up for auction on January 11, 2023. According to the Lafayette Parish Assessor the property located at 338 Sterling Street in Lafayette, Louisiana is owned RPJ Hospitality, LLC. A Petition for Executory Process filed with the Lafayette Parish Clerk of Court August 23, 2022 names RPJ Hospitality, LLC; Jhansi R. Balla of Austin, Texas; Hemanth K. Balla of Austin, Texas; and Kshipraprasad Krindinti of Houston, Texas as defendants.

The petition indicates that a promissory note was executed by RPJ Hospitality, LLC on June 28, 2017 for the principal amount of $758,202.63 and payment has not been made since February 5, 2022. The court issued a Writ of Seizure and Sale at request of Farmer-Merchants Bank and Trust Company, mortgagee, who seeks to recoup the unpaid principal sum of $711,299.97 plus additional costs.

Who is RPJ Hospitality, LLC?

According to the Louisiana Secretary of State, RPJ Hospitality, LLC is limited liability company in the state of Louisiana that is domiciled at 338 Sterling Street in Lafayette, Louisiana. Its registered agent in Ravi Daggula and its members are Kshipraprasad Krindinti of Houston, Texas (mentioned above) and Robert Autin of Lafayette, Louisiana.

While Kshipraprasad Krindinti may be a name you are unfamiliar with Ravi Daggula and Robert Autin are likely to ring a bell. Daggula, who has been featured in the local press on a number of occasions, is linked to many other entities, including Maurya Properties, LLC; Deccan Investments, LLC; Sterling Hospitality, LLC; Greenbriar Investments, LLC; Greenbriar Investments II, LLC; Travelodge Lafayette, LLC; Bellevie Hospitality, LLC; Feed and Seed Production, LLC; First Stone Investments, LLC; and the Buchanan Lofts Condominium Association, Inc.

Robert Autin, a local surgeon, may actually be less known than Daggula but also has his hand in a number of ventures. Autin is part-owner of RPJ Hospitality, LLC; Bellevie Hospitality, LLC; Freetown Superette, LLC; and Lamar Street, LLC. But is doesn’t stop there. You see Lamar Street, LLC is part-owner and/or affiliated with Sterling Hospitality, LLC; Travelodge Lafayette, LLC; Greenbriar Investments, LLC; Greenbriar Investments II, LLC; Vermilion Lofts, LLC; and Vermilion Lofts II, LLC. Many of these entities are also affiliated with Daggula. I guess you could say that Daggula, Autin and these entities are almost like one big incestuous family with all the interrelations. But it doesn’t stop there!

The Godfather (or mother-in-law)

No family is quite complete without a godfather figure or boss, especially when it comes to an organized syndicate such as this. But when you don’t have a “Godfather” figure sometimes you just have to work with what you do have – a Mother-In-Law.

And that mother-in-law is none other than Nanette Cook. In case you didn’t know Robert Autin is Nanette Cook’s son-in-law through his marriage to Clare Michelle (Cook) Autin on February 28, 2014. And it is that relationship which cast ethical questions upon a slew of actions taken by Councilman Cook.

A few definitions

Louisiana Revised Statute 42:1102(19) defines “public servant” as follows: “Public servant” means a public employee or an elected official.

Louisiana Revised Statute 42:1112(B) provides: “No public servant, except as provided in R.S. 42:1120, shall participate in a transaction involving the governmental entity in which, to his actual knowledge, any of the following persons has a substantial economic interest:

(1) Any member of his immediate family.

Louisiana Revised Statute 42:1102(13) and (21) provides the following definitions:

(13) “Immediate family” as the term relates to a public servant means his children, the spouses of his children, his brothers and their spouses, his sisters and their spouses, his parents, his spouse, and the parents of his spouse.

(21) “Substantial economic interest” means an economic interest which is of greater benefit to the public servant or other person than to a general class or group of persons…

About those potential conflicts

While serving in her capacity as an elected official, Councilman Cook has engaged in transaction(s), voting and/or has taken other actions in matters in which her immediate family has substantial economic interests. For the sake of brevity we will focus on the Maison Mouton Bed and Breakfast.

On September 19, 2017 an ordinance came before the Lafayette Consolidated Government City-Parish Council [O-162-2017] whereby changes to a “Conditional Use Permit” was sought to allow the expansion of Maison Mouton Bed and Breakfast. The ordinance originated from a petition filed with the Lafayette Zoning Commission on June 7, 2017 by Ravi Daggula, as representative for RPJ Hospitality, LLC. That petition was filed just twenty-one days before the promissory note was executed for the purchase of the Maison Mouton Bed and Breakfast by RPJ Hospitality, LLC. Cook cast her vote in support of granting special privileges to RPJ Hospitality, LLC, not otherwise enjoyed by the general public.

On October 18, 2022 an ordinance came before the Lafayette Consolidated Government City-Parish Council [CO-155-2022] whereby additional changes to the “Conditional Use Permit” was sought for an existing bed and breakfast located at 338 North Sterling Street, Lafayette, Louisiana. The ordinance originated from a petition filed with the Lafayette Zoning Commission on August 10, 2022 by Ravi Daggula. Daggula spoke before the City Council asking for support of the ordinance. Cook again cast her vote in support of granting special privileges, not otherwise enjoyed by the general public. The bed and breakfast conditions continue to specify that the “owner/proprietor must live in the principal structure.” The owner/proprietor’s of RPJ Hospitality, LLC at the time, did not and presently do not live in the principal structure.

Did Cook Know All Along?

Cook had to know of her son-in-law’s business association with RPJ Hospitality, LLC and Ravi Daggula prior to her vote on these matters. The Cook/Autin family are engaged in a number of business ventures with Daggula which is public knowledge and subject of media and governmental body reports.

Downtown Lafayette Unlimited (DLU) / Downtown Development Authority (DDA) recently published an online article entitled “Celebrating Downtown Business Milestones”. The article references a ribbon cutting event for Esprit de Coeur, which occurred on or about August 30, 2022. The article states: “Showing their support to the downtown community Senator Gerald Boudreaux (1/10), Representative John Stefanski (5/10), President and CEO of LEDA Mandi Mitchell, Councilwoman Nanette Cook (2/10), and downtown Councilman Glenn Lazard (1/10) attended the event. We are proud to showcase this beautiful, historic space and celebrate Ravi Daggula, Dr. Kalyan Veerina, and Robert Autin’s investment in Downtown Lafayette.”

The article features a photo of Daggula (in purple) and Autin (holding the scissors) standing beside one another while the ribbon is cut. Although her face is concealed in the photo, standing behind Autin and holding a small child is Nanette Cook. She can be seen more clearly at the end of this video.

 

 

 

Cook also appears in photos beside Daggula at the event making it even more likely that Cook knows or should know of her son-in-law’s business association with RPJ Hospitality, LLC and Ravi Daggula. (Photos posted by Anita Begnaud and Ravi Daggula)

According to property records the structure (Esprit de Coeur) located 402 Garfield Street, Lafayette, Louisiana, is not owned by Daggula, Autin, Veerina or any entities they appear to be associated with. Yet, Daggula claims to have “acquired” the property, and there they are cutting the ribbon. It leads one to wonder about potential steps taken to conceal ownership, conflicts of interest and/or other potentially nefarious actions of the actors.

House of Faith

Cook also has to know of her son-in-law’s business association with RPJ Hospitality, LLC and Ravi Daggula through an even more familiar source – her daughter, Clare (Cook) Autin. Clare Autin appears in a February 6, 2022 media report by The Acadiana Advocate.

In that piece, Clare Autin appears in a photograph standing alongside Daggula in front of the old House of Faith Full Gospel Church. The article stated that Daggula and “investors have bought several abandoned or underutilized properties in recent weeks, including the old House of Faith Full Gospel Church at 710 Jefferson Blvd. that he will lease to Basin Arts at a rate that, he said, will only cover the monthly note on the building.”

According to property records the structure (House of Faith Full Gospel Church) located 710 Jefferson Blvd. Lafayette, Louisiana is owned by Sterling Hospitality, LLC. Daggula is the registered agent with interest in the company belonging to Lamar Street, LLC. Robert Autin owns a 100% interest in Lamar Street, LLC. As for as Basin Arts, it is a non-profit organization of which Clare (Cook) Autin is a Director and Registered Agent.

Just how deep this pattern of potential unethical behavior and conflicts of interest runs is not fully known. The Maison Mouton Bed and Breakfast is just one bread crumb of many that branch off into countless trails and include many familiar faces. There will be more to follow.

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