Over the last several weeks, we’ve been digging into these new taxing districts. They were passed by the previous council and signed into law by the previous city/parish Mayor-President on Friday, January 3rd, 2020. Effectively, all this occurred at a special (emergency?) meeting during the very last hour of the very last day of the previous government. Add to that, these taxing districts last no less than twenty-five years, and have absolutely no plan on how to spend all the money being extracted from taxpayers. What they do have, though, are five pre-selected developers that will financially benefit.
In a video we created around 5:30 PM that same day (below) we reviewed all of the approved districts and who all of the beneficiaries were. Here’s the video:
The most suspicious district
The one district that especially stood out to us was the Northway Economic Development District (EDD) benefiting Pride Opportunity Developers. The organization had been created only a few months before we found out about the districts being planned. Oddly, Pride Opportunity Developers does not contain a single person as a member. Instead, it’s a series of Limited Liability Companies (LLCs).
In the interest of flow, we’ll address them a little out of order.
Sivarco Group LLC / Ravis Martinez
The second member of Pride Opportunity Developers is Sivarco Group LLC. That LLC’s exclusive member is Ravis Martinez. His LLC is registered with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office to a Post Office Box and a domicile address in Lafayette. However, pages 11 and 18 of a 2011 campaign finance report for Democrat Representative Vincent Pierre, Sivarco’s address is listed as a self-storage unit number in Houston, Texas. In 13 July 2012, Sivarco was registered with the Louisiana Secretary of State for the first time, and at some point appears to have had an office at the failed LITE Center building.
Royal Hill and Ava Hill / Greater Good Consulting LLC
The third and final LLC is Greater Good Consulting LLC. Its exclusive member is Ava Hill, with a registered agent, Royal Hill, at the same address. Royal is actually employed by Lafayette Consolidated Government as the Recreation Centers Program Manager. According to page 365 of LCG’s 2019-2020 adopted budget, the taxpayers spend $67,971 per year on that position. Furthermore, as the senior member of that department, Royal probably controls a total budget of $2,623,478. Included in that are 28 employees, amounting to a payroll budget of $953,864.
Royal Hill is also a former CEO of SMILE who was fired by the board in 2016. The reader may recall that ongoing corruption problems caused SMILE to lose its $14 million contract to run the multi-parish Head Start program.
Millennium Management & Investments 2000 LLC / John Ford
The first member is Millennium Management & Investments 2000 LLC. That LLC’s members are John and Charlotte Ford. Ford also wholly owns Pride Community Opportunity Fund, LLC. It was registered just two days before the Pride Opportunity Developers LLC. We know these organizations are similar not just because John Ford is involved, but because the graphic designs are almost identical.
Reference the February 1st, 2020, event put on by Pride Opportunity Developers for the Northway EDD. Previously, on August 14th, Pride Community Opportunity Fund LLC held a different event seeking financing.
John S. Ford’s name is important, not just because he ran for Parish Council and lost. His name and a reference to his wife pops up in court documents surrounding Angel Point Manor. While that particular filing doesn’t include John Ford’s name, the law suit does, and the filing’s address also ties back to John Ford’s address.
It may be interesting here that Becker & Hebert, APLC is the registered agent of Angel Point Development and also of Angel Point Development II. That law office is Mike Hebert’s firm, who is formerly Lafayette’s City-Parish Attorney and currently Lafayette’s Assistant City-Parish Attorney. The Secretary of State “revoked” the organization on May 18, 2016. Likewise, one of its members, Angel Manor LLC, was also revoked in May 16, 2017. Its exclusive member is… Millennium Management & Investments 2000 LLC.
There are also numerous variations of all of these organizations, including several apparent duplicates whose only difference is a roman numeral two. They’re all tied back to John Ford or his address.
A history of misappropriation of taxpayer money
The court documents we referenced earlier show that John Ford and his wife, through some creative accounting, had acquired a substantial sum more than they were entitled to.
Beginning in 2006 and continuing through 2011, DHH, through its Program Integrity Unit, issued numerous notices to Angel Manor concerning billing discrepancies (billing for undocumented services, overlapping billings, and over-billing) that occurred during the period ranging from June 2003 through July 2009. Angel Manor was informed that the results of informal hearings, concerning these alleged violations, affirmed recovery amounts from Angel Manor, totaling $204,798.02 and a proposed exclusion from Medicaid participation for a period of five years.
The court case, which went all the way to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, was not the finding of wrongdoing. Instead, it was about the settlement that the Fords agreed to, including their voluntary exclusion from Medicaid participation for a period of five years. The problem was they didn’t wait the full five years before reapplying. When DHH denied their request, citing the agreement, they sued.
Ultimately, the First Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. During the review of the law, they reached the “inescapable conclusion that DHH had the statutory authority to deny the application made by John Ford on behalf of The Clinic at Villas at Angel Point.”
Why would LCG choose this partner?
As we’ve reviewed the history of the primary beneficiary of the Northway district, we’re left with this final question. Obviously, the former Lafayette Parish City-Parish Council rushed into all five of these Economic Development Districts (EDD) with ZERO retrospect or research. The fact that this information is easily available on Google also begs a new question: did Danielle Breaux, LCG’s Director of Development and Planning, know all of this history, and that Royal Hill, an LCG employee, would directly benefit from the creation of these districts while she was writing the talking points memo to help uninformed council members defend the creation of five, new, long-term taxing districts thrust upon them at the last possible moment?
Certainly the best course of action is to immediately freeze the EDD districts, and not levy any new taxes until every beneficiary has been fully vetted. That’s just plain common sense.
We’re the only organization holding them accountable.
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