CHARLES J. BALLAY, ET AL
AMOS J. CORMIER, III, ET AL CHARLES J. BALLAY IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF THE TWENTY-FIFTH JUDICAL DISTRICT
AMOS J. CORMIER, III AND THE PLAQUEMINES PARISH GOVERNMENT CDW SERVICES, LLC
THE PLAQUEMINES PARISH GOVERNMENT AND MR. AMOS J. CORMIER, III IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS PARISH PRESIDENT OF PLAQUEMINES PARISH
FROM 25TH JDC, PARISH OF PLAQUEMINES NO. 63-488 C\W 63-489,
63-493, DIVISION "A" HONORABLE JEROME BARBERA,
JUDGE, AD HOC
S. Ciolino DANE S. CIOLINO, L.L.C. David C. Jarrell Charles
J. Ballay, District Attorney OFFICE OF THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY
FOR THE PARISH OF PLAQUEMINES Frank A. Milanese FRANK A.
MILANESE, PLC COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF/APPELLEES
Barbee William S. Culver, Jr. ATTORNEY AT LAW AND Robert A.
Barnett COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANTS/APPELLANTS
composed of Judge Paula A. Brown, Judge Marion F. Edwards,
Pro Tempore, Judge Tiffany G. Chase
Marion F. Edwards, Pro Tempore.
three consolidated cases in this appeal involve a dispute
between Charles J. Ballay, the District Attorney of the
Twenty-Fifth Judicial District, and Amos J. Cormier, III, the
Parish President of Plaquemines Parish, regarding a
contract with CDW Services, LLC to renovate a building
intended for the future use of the District Attorney's
Office. The construction project was needed because the
Plaquemines Parish Courthouse in Point a la Hache, which
housed the District Attorney's Office, was damaged beyond
repair in a fire caused by an arsonist on January 12, 2002.
land acquisitions, block grants and local and federal funding
during the administrations of former Plaquemines Parish
Presidents Billy Nungesser, Amos J. Cormier, Jr., and interim
president, Ed Theriot, the Parish acquired and began
developing several acres of land and buildings formerly owned
by the State of Louisiana for the purpose of establishing a
parish government complex. One of these buildings, Building
201, was designated for use as the District Attorney's
fall of 2016, the Parish advertised to receive bids on the
renovation of Building 201 in accordance with the process set
forth in the Louisiana Public Bid Law embodied in La. R.S. 38
§ 2212, et seq. In December of 2016, Interim
Parish President Ed Theriot, accepted a bid from CDW
Services, LLC (CDW) as the lowest bid, and awarded the
contract to CDW. CDW responded timely and completed the
necessary paperwork for confection of the contract. However,
between the time the project was let out for bids, and the
completion of the required documentation process, Amos J.
Cormier, III was sworn in as Parish President. On January 30,
2017, Mr. Cormier rejected all bids on the project and
refused to certify the availability of funds for the project.
Mr. Cormier refused to execute the contract with CDW, Mr.
Ballay filed a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus seeking to
compel the Parish to execute the contract with CDW, and a
Petition for a Temporary Restraining Order seeking to
prohibit the Parish from alienating or encumbering the funds
previously appropriated for the renovations of Building
Additionally, CDW filed a Petition for a Writ of Mandamus to
compel the Parish to execute the contract for the
renovations. Mr. Cormier filed several exceptions to the
mandamus petitions, including no cause of action, in which he
asserted that the actions taken were discretionary,
precluding the issuance of a writ of mandamus. In his answer,
Mr. Cormier also asserted several affirmative defenses. All
three actions were consolidated in the trial court for
trial court considered and denied the exceptions, and
ultimately rendered an opinion in which it granted the
mandamus and denied the preliminary injunction. All parties
pertinent facts are undisputed. A call for bids on the
project to renovate Building 201 was properly advertised
pursuant to the Public Bid Law during the Theriot
administration, and CDW submitted the lowest responsive bid.
Parish officials made certain CDW had a valid
contractor's license and had no issues that would
invalidate the bid. Consequently, CDW's bid was accepted
by the Parish, and CDW was awarded the contract. CDW
completed the necessary paperwork and secured the required
insurance and performance bonds. Parish officials reviewed
all documents submitted by CDW, and certified the bid as
complete. The final contract was submitted to Mr. Cormier,
the newly sworn in Parish President, for signature.
for the project came from three sources. $274, 000 came from
the District Attorney's office, $1.6 million came from a
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and $616, 000 was
provided by the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP).
Additionally, the parish allocated $60, 000 to re-design
portions of the building. However, those funds were for
design only, not construction.
time the bids came in, the Parish was still $712, 000 short
of the necessary funds. Pursuant to the Public Bid Law, the
Parish is required to award the contract to the lowest bidder
within 45 days or get an agreement from the contractor to
extend their bid prices past that day. An extension was
obtained, and the Parish was able to secure an additional
$800, 000 from Sandy Recovery, Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA) money set for use on Building 203, which was
under construction. That freed up CDBG money to be moved to
the Building 201 project. The CDBG grant was for both
buildings, so the funds could be moved back and forth without
council approval. Mr. Theriot verbally agreed to the transfer
of funds at the council meeting.
Cormier III, the current president of Plaquemines Parish,
took office in January of 2017. He reviewed the parish
finances and the contract with CDW and decided not to sign
the CDW contract. Notification of that decision was sent by
email to all concerned parties.
Cormier cited the timing of the contract, which occurred nine
days after he was elected president, parish finances,
availability of funding for the project, and his
determination that the grant funds would be put to better use
on other projects in the Parish such as a library for Port
Sulphur, as reasons for his decision not to execute the
contract. Mr. Cormier also expressed concerns over the
legality of the donation by the District Attorney's
Office toward the funding for the project, and the lack of an
ordinance relating to the project which would authorize the
Cormier acknowledged that federal grant money was identified
in the bid documents for funding of the project, but stated
that the Parish had not yet received the funds and he did not
know whether the funds were actually available. He admitted
that his conversations with FEMA were general and he did
nothing specific to determine whether the funds were
available for the renovation of Building 201. Mr. Cormier
also stated that he believed the District Attorney is
required by law to be located in the parish seat, although he
could not cite the legal support for that belief.
Poche is a project manager for Hunt, Guillot & Associates
(HGA). He testified that HGA has a contract with Plaquemines
Parish to manage grants. He explained that after Hurricane
Katrina, Congress approved certain funds. Part of those funds
included $616, 000 which was allocated to Building 201 to
retrofit, or hurricane-proof the structure, and that money is
still available. The overall grant is for $8 million and
works by reimbursement. When the project goes into
construction, the grant managers review the invoices for
eligibility then pass them on for approval to the State, and
eventually on to FEMA.
Poche stated that the Parish does not pay the invoice before
it is submitted to the State and Federal Homeland Security
Departments. Rather, the invoices are sent to state and
federal agencies and, when approved, the funds are sent to
the Parish for payment of the invoices. Mr. Poche testified
that it usually takes about 30 to 45 days before the process
is completed and the checks are received by the Parish. He
stated that he has been doing this job since 2012 and has
never seen a problem with payment.
was similar expert testimony to show that funding from CDBG
is managed in a similar fashion. Specifically, there is $4
million in CDBG funds allocated for the Consolidated
Government Complex in which Building 201 is located. About
$1.6 million of that total was allocated to Building 201.
When construction begins and an invoice ...