The Town of Sorrento filed a Petition for Damages naming Design & Build Consultants, LLC among 12 defendants on Monday alleging fraud and seeking “recovery of the $77,500 paid” to the company in 2012 for repairs that may or may not have been necessary to the town’s sewer system. In July of 2013 Mayor Mike Lambert had been in office less than a week when he was alerted that a work crew was cutting a large section out of Main St. Lambert put a stop to the work and tried to figure out what was happening; and, two years later, he still is.
And Lambert is not alone.
In November of 2013 Sorrento’s Town Council voted to pursue the monies paid Design & Build for work that has never been done. Councilman Randy Anny abstained then citing his belief that some work had been performed by the company though he could provide no specifics. At that same meeting a unanimous five-member council voted to file a complaint with Louisiana’s Bar Association with regard to the billing practices of former Town Attorney Donovan Hudson.
The Council’s action followed on the heels of a criminal investigation into the bizarre circumstances that, for all anyone in Sorrento knows, continues to this day.
For a year and a half nothing happened; Lambert’s mayoral administration took no action with regard to either of the council dictates of November 2013 until the Council brought the matters back up last month. The thought among certain council members was that the mayor had deferred to the suspected criminal investigation but…who really knew.
Mayor Lambert has been close-mouthed; and that has not changed. He refused comment after Tuesday’s meeting of the council as did the three council members present. Donald Schexnaydre, a driving force behind pursuing both Design & Build and Donovan Hudson, was absent along with Wanda Bourgeois.
Councilman Randy Anny would add nothing on Tuesday but had much to say in the summer of 2013. Anny, as Sorrento’s acting mayor, signed the check issued to Design & Build on July 6, 2012 “in the amount of $77,500 for purported sewer repairs at or near Main Street and Trabeaux Street” according to the Petition for Damages. Sorrento alleges the check to have been deposited by the company at Mid-South Bank in Lafayette.
“On June 2013 Design & Build issued a work order to H & O Investments, LLC as subcontractor to ‘Replace broken sewer line running across Main Street'” and H & O is another named defendant in the suit along with ten individuals who are members in the companies. “As of the date of filing this Petition, no such sewer repair has taken place” and “there remains a question as to whether such sewer repairs were necessary” according to the suit.
Anny insisted two years ago that the work was an adjunct to emergency sewer repairs authorized at a August 25, 2011 emergency council meeting that led to hiring a Grady Melancon-owned company. But no record of another council meeting has been found; no minute entry or recording, nothing.
Payment to Design & Build requires a budget appropriation by the Town Council according to Louisiana law.
Anny blamed then Town Attorney Donovan Hudson for the lack of recordation of the alleged emergency meeting where, he claimed, the council authorized the Design & Build contract. The councilman said the meeting occurred on or about July 2, 2012 when town clerks were unable to attend.
“I believe the Town Attorney was taking notes and put those notes in the file,” Anny said two years ago. “The tape recording equipment was locked in the safe and we didn’t have the combination.”
Hudson insisted he was on vacation in Georgia when the special emergency meeting is alleged to have occurred by Randy Anny. Hudson, who had been Anny’s personal attorney, denied any knowledge whatever of the special meeting as did Councilman Marvin Martin who, along with Anny, is the only holdover council members from the time in question.
Stranger still is the need for an emergency meeting given the fact that Design & Build was the lowest of three bidders ($139,300) for certain sewer improvements on June 25, 2012. On October 7, 2012 Sorrento’s accountant inquired into why the check had been written in the first place since no record of work existed. Two weeks later the Town Clerk wrote Design & Build to ask for a progress report.
The record is silent until June 24, 2013 when Design & Build submitted a “Notice to Proceed Authorization.” A week later Sorrento had a new mayor and town council. No one seems to know if Sorrento’s sewer system is actually in need of repair.
Four months ago local and federal law enforcement agents seized Randy Anny’s boat from his Sorrento residence but would not disclose the nature of their interest.
Another attorney who has represented Anny in the past is a named defendant in the Petition for Damages. Roy Maughan, Jr. is a member of H & O Investments and the registered agent of Design & Build when Sorrento’s check was deposited.
Donovan Hudson, who was questioned by Ascension Parish Sheriff’s detectives in 2013, evidenced extensive knowledge of Design & Build’s operation. He told this writer that the company’s nominal majority owner, Terry Reado, claimed to have no knowledge of any work in Sorrento, nor the existence of the $77,500 check made out to his company.
That investigation was taken over by federal authorities and is believed by town officials to be ongoing.
Interestingly, Donovan Hudson announced his candidacy for District 40 State Representative on June 30. District 40 lies in St. Landry Parish.
“In the event that a valid contract is found to have existed between the The Town of Sorrento and Design & Build, Petitioner avers that Design & Build breached that contract by way of failure of performance,” the town’s petition also alleges. The company “made misrepresentations or suppressions of the truth with the intention either to obtain an unjust advantage for themselves and/or to cause a loss or inconvenience to the Town of Sorrento, amounting to fraud.”
That alleged fraud was committed “by failing to make any effort whatsoever to make the purported repairs for which they were paid $77,500.”