Saturday, July 01, 2006

Elizabeth Naquin and Matthew Eastin--Why?

Elizabeth Naquin and Matthew Eastin have cost their neighbors 6 million dollars since they decided to oppose what the people of the community clearly said they wanted last July 16th. That was the message of a clearly frustrated and angry Terry Huval and Dee Stanley at the news that the pair and their class-acton suit lawyers had filed an appeal of their recent loss in court.

The news media were on this, for a change. The Advocate, The Advertiser, KATC (with PC only video) and KLFY all run major stories--and they are all worth a look.

There clearly comes a point when such expensive obstructionism becomes a real issue for the community and it may be that this press conference marks that point. The question that everyone wants to ask is, of course: Why? Why pursue a course that only costs your neighbors so much money in order to frustrate their clear desire? Nobody believes that this has much to do really with utility rates. LUS has never had high rates and is perfectly free to set whatever rates it wants to set in any case. Nobody really thinks that a lawsuit that challenges the rates has a prayer of succeeding. And nobody thinks that suing over rates in years past has any real relation to preventing LUS to sell revenue bonds to build a business that didn't even exist when the utility rates in question were set.

History helps us understand at least part of the reason that Naquin and Eastin are doing this--they are tools of the incumbent providers. The original version of this lawsuit originated during the fiber referendum fight and was nearly a direct copy of a suit filed by BellSouth with the exception of trying to promote the idea that "in lieu of taxes" is somehow an unfair tax on the people. That little bit of propaganda went nowhere an nobody really noticed when a judge dismissed the lawsuit (see the timeline in today's Advertiser). The attempts to delay the LUS project passed the Public Service Commission and for a time lawsuits to delay LUS were superfluous. Given that history we shouldn't be surprised to notice that after months of not having a suit active the lawyers and Naquin and Eastin only showed back up at the exact moment when BellSouth and Cox needed a new lawsuit to counter Lafayette's attempt to repeal the (un)Fair Competition Act. Lafayette caved at the threat by BellSouth to sue again and cut a deal to withdraw their repeal bills. BellSouth let its suit die. The Naquin and Eastin lawsuit didn't get included in the final deal amid claims by BS that it didn't sponsor this one and hints that maybe Cox did.

Eastin and Naquin have never shown any interest in the actual fiber issue as multiple stories attest; they have never shown up at any council meeting or LPUA meeting; they've never shown their face in public opposition. With that in mind it's a little hard to take seriously the idea that they are self-motivated by anything that approaches idealism to oppose the voters of the city. As today's stories make clear they are not trying to save the people of the city any money. If that was their purpose they'd demand that their lawyers not entangle the bond issue that is costing the community so much money--and delaying a project for which the people voted. No, it is simply impossible to believe that Naquin and Eastin are hoping to benefit the community.

So why? The remaining explanations are pretty clearly self-serving.
  1. They remain simply the tools of the incumbents. (Somebody has to be paying for these lawyers to keep four (count 'em!) lawsuits in different courts running. Who is paying for this? This 62 year old Elizabeth Naquin woman and Eastin? I have to doubt it.)
  2. They're hoping for a big bucket of money and are willing to blackmail the community in the hopes that the city will fork over a pay-off to get the chance to go forward. (Ain't gonna happen.)
  3. They actually think the lawsuit has a chance and that there would be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that they are willing to split with the lawyers. However, if the lawyers I've talked to are right there is really no chance of this. A win would only result in a long-term repayment in the form of a little bit of money rebated on each bill. There is no pot of money coming in any case. If their lawyers are telling them different they need to talk to other lawyers. Their own lawyers have undoubtedly made sure their cut is coming from somewhere.
There just aren't all that many explanations for what is going on here as long as Eastin and Naquin are standing in the way of the bond issue. They're costing the people of the community money and delaying a project the people voted for. It's all pretty ugly.

19 comments:

GumboFilé said...

John,

I don't know who the plaintifs are or what their motive is, but I would certainly prefer a $6million, one-time loss to undefined, open-ended, perpetually recurring losses, which is what we are certain to have with LUS FTTH. All they've ever done is provide simple, static, monopoly utility services. They've never had to compete. They've never been involved in providing a rapidly evolving dynamic technology. They're struggling to provide water, which is technologically simple (especially relative to telcom) and for which they have no competition. I still can't understand how any honest thinking person can expect them to succeed in the telcom business, especially in light of the struggles of existing muni telcos.

David

Anonymous said...

I can only believe the plantifs motive is to seek the refund from the provider that has been overcharging them for electric services. In order for the Attorney to protect the overcharged revenues from being used to subsidize a Telecom business, they must challenge the ordinance that violates The Local Government Fair Competition Act. I think this is the same lawsuit BellSouth filed in April but dropped. It was about the same time that Lafayette dropped the 3 bills that repealed the Local Government Fair Competition Act.

John said...

David Hayes o' Grand Coteau,

Who is this "we" you are referring to? You're no citizen of Lafayette and I can only repeat that having inherited a piece of Teche Electric doesn't make you one or give you much standing to claim that "we" are "certain" to experience loses.

On the contrary, the business you are in should make it especially likely that you would know that LUS is a major regional producer of electricity that sells its excess production at a nice profit and competes quite well with that set of giant out of state corporations already.

I can't understand how "any honest thinking person" can repeatedly choose to give a pass to people who are clearly motivated by greed and instead cast aspersions on the decisions of the community and the efforts of a clearly successful local utility.


Anono,

You'll have to find something else to believe if you wan to think the Eastin/Naquin affair is honorably motivated.

The Attorney doesn't have to protect any old pile of money. In fact that is possibly the most transparently false issue in the whole pack of lawsuits and appeals.

There is no way that any past revenues will be or could be used to fund our telecom business. The (un)Fair competition act forbids it and LUS has locked itself into commitments both in response to both the PSC and lawsuits that are iron-clad. (I think some of those commitments go way too far and further than the law requires...)

LUS is not, can not, and never has planned to use any pot of "old" money to fund this project. To infer it did or could is plain wrong.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible that the Plaintiff Attorney got the legal argument from the courts when BellSouth and the Louisiana Cable and Telecommunications Association filed the suit in district court? If Lafayette, LCTA, and BellSouth had come to terms on the Legislation before they filed the suit, could this have been prevented? Did Lafayette have an opportunity to come to terms with BellSouth and LCTA before the suit was filed? The answer is YES. I assume (and I know what that means) when a suit is filed, it becomes public record, right? Did Lafayette bring this on themselves? Is it possible?

Let me share a piece Kevin Blanchard wrote:
LAFAYETTE — BellSouth and cable industry officials have agreed to drop their lawsuit opposing Lafayette Utilities System’s proposed telecommunications bonds in exchange for Lafayette pulling several legislative proposals pending at the state Capitol, City-Parish President Joey Durel said Tuesday. The tit-for-tat agreement comes only days after BellSouth and the Louisiana Cable and Telecommunications Association filed suit in state district court asking a judge to block LUS’ planned $125 million bond issue. BellSouth and Lafayette officials negotiated throughout the weekend trying to avoid the lawsuit. The negotiations started, Durel said, when he ran into some BellSouth officials last week in Baton Rouge. BellSouth proceeded to file its suit late Sunday night by fax — just ahead of the deadline for filing an objection to the bond issue. But discussions continued Monday and the two parties eventually reached an agreement, Durel said. “We were able to work this out,” Durel said. “We’re happy with the results.” LUS still faces a second lawsuit filed Friday by two Lafayette residents, Elizabeth Naquin and Matthew Eastin, who are represented by a Plaquemine law firm that specializes in class actions. Director Terry Huval said LUS was concerned about defending a suit brought by telecommunications companies with “well-financed legal teams.” The deal reached is in the best interests of Lafayette, if only because “it’s easier to hit one ball coming at you instead of two,” Huval said.





Was the press conference yesterday a ploy by our local officials to point the finger to hide their error or did they really intend to intimidate the two citizens to drop the suit? Is Terry upset because his “well financed legal team” could only come up with a name like “The Local Government Fair Competition Act?”

I don’t expect you to answer the last question, but you can take another sip if you like.

John said...

Anono again,

You know it took me three tries to see what twisted point you were trying to make from behind your cloak of anonymity but I finally figured it out.

You are "certain" somehow that the class action lawyers got their papers from BellSouth's midnight filing.

The answer is not YES but NO. And you provide the evidence in your own post. If you'd read Blanchard carefully you'd have noticed that Naquin and Eastin lawsuit was filed Friday and the BellSouth fellas only got their thing in on Sunday night.

Duh. So the class action lawyers couldn't have got their papers from BellSouth. (But BellSouth could have snitched from them.)

This is really grasping at straws, don't you think?

GumboFilé said...

John,

The "we" to which I'm referring are all "us" utility customers and taxpayers who could be paying higher utility rates and higher taxes to offset the losses caused by "your" pet project. I'll gladly opt out of "we" if LUS and LCG will allow. Will you testify on my behalf?

David

John said...

David Hays,

What's frustrating about these exchanges is that I am always sucked into actually responding to the charges folks make while they don't feel obligated to deal with the facts I lay out. (I very much appreciate that with you I at least know who I am talking to.)

In this instance you say LUS is incompetent to run a modern network. It seems to me that your assertions about the facts of the matter are just wrong. LUS currently competes with the big guys on electricity. It is successfully running a wholesale telecom business.

Nobody, in this whole period of time when people have tried to smear LUS, has made any claim stick that LUS has been anything other than an very effective and successful public utility. At other times even you've conceeded this. LUS has a long history of being a successful organization. By any reasonable analysis it has kept prices low, kept our money local, and its profitable sales of electricity and water have held down in-city prices and taxes. I don't think that can be reasonably disputed. Given that, why, other than not liking the idea that a public entity could be successful, would anyone think that the next venture would be any different?

You need to deal with the facts as they are before you go off and make yourself into a member of a yet-to-be realized community of people who you believe will sometime in the future lose money. It is not enough to think LUS is ideolgically incorrect.

Anonymous said...

You need to read the Lawsuit filed on Friday and compare it to what is filed with the 3rd circut. AAAHH!! You are correct in that the suit was filed on Friday so maybe there is no connection between the class action and the corporations but the "midnight filing" still provided the legal argument to the Plaintifs Attorney. This could have been prevented if Lafayette had agreed to the terms of the negotiation with BellSouth and the LCTA prior to the "midnight filing." Sip up

John said...

Ah anono,

Now I understand why you don't use your name--so that when you flights of fancy don't match up with reality you can just invent a new unsubstantiated fancy.

Your entire line of reasoning is based on the idea (assumption as you so neatly put it) that these grasping plaintiffs and their lawyers would have to go rummaging around in the metaphorical garbage to get resources from BellSouth. Nah. BellSouth (and Cox) would happily give it to 'em. Surely your blinders are not so narrow that you can't see that?

The problem here is that we all know that they've used BellSouth's stuff before--their first suit was a BellSouth redo. They let that die without appeal while BellSouth and Cox used other delaying tactics to keep the system we voted for from being built. They came back in precisely when LUS had nothing to stop 'em.

That's all pretty good reason to think that they're dupes of the incumbents. Being dupes why do they need to sneak around to use BellSouths BS?

NO need to go blaming the city for negotiating up to the deadline...if they're gonna negotiate (and I thought it a bad idea) they might as well be hard-nosed about it.

John said...

anono,

Further research reveals that the plantiffs did try co-opt the BS filing. But, contrary to your insinuations this did not result in problems for the city or LUS.

What happened is that they tried to add some sort of memo which copied some of BS's logic...apparently word for word. But that wasn't a timely filing since they didn't get it in by the Sunday deadline and the Judge disallowed it.

No harm.

Anonymous said...

John
OK you are right about one thing, it doesn't look like LUS has the resources to overcome the private sector LCTA or two Plaintifs Attorneys. It would require them to play by the rules and they just don't intend to comply with the rules that they agreed to 2 years ago. Those opposed will continue to challenged Lafayette and this will be a big waste of tax dollars.

John said...

ah, anono,

So clever. Wrong about the first piece of BS. Wrong about your second piece of BS. (You're good enough at BS to make me wonder if you are a BS lawyer..or Cox's?)

Wrong on the facts, wrong on the inference. And the best you can do when I point this out is to imply I said something I never said? Pitiful.

That, readers, is what has been wrong with this so-called opposition from the beginning. They're pitifully misinformed and just ignore it when they get called on their misinformation. That's easy for them to do because they haven't risked anything since they take their pot-shots from hiding.

My recomendation: treat anonymous postings as the words of folks that don't have the courage of their convictions and are trying to manipulate you without owning up to their own interests in the matter.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how much Bellsouth and Cox paid off these pieces of garbage? The peoples will cannot be held down! The longer Cox and Bellsouth continue this charade the quicker their companies will fold.

Anonymous said...

John doesn't like for you to post anonymously.

Anonymous said...

I'm staying anono because I work for one of the incumbants! I'm a field maint. tech and have nothing to do with whats going on in the courts. If you look at me and my co-workers, we just want to provide the best service we can for our customers, thats not always what comes out as a whole, but a few that we get to touch, we can make a difference for them. Prices? I can't help that. LUS? If the people voted for it, LET THEM HAVE IT!!! The real test is to allow it! Everything that is going on inside of our state and local governments and court systems is "OUR" faults!! (as a people)We live in probably the most corrupt state in the union, and we allow it!! Of course BIG Business is going to try and block the people, if their ambition is to build something greater than what they (incumbants) have built. These companies pay big money to see exactly what would be finacially feasable. Theres not enough money in this state to build out a system like LAF wants. I have my own ideas of how a system should be built but im just a tech. Ya know.. the guy that knows exactly how to make it work. Not the guy who sat in 4 to 8 yrs. of Ivy League BS101. But thats just my opinion! Plz excuse my use of the anonymous option but I like my job and don't want to take the chance of screwing that up!

John said...

Anon/Tech,

It's true that I prefer--for reasons this string of responses exemplifies--to have folks actually use their names. There are (much) fewer mean-spirited and deliberately misleading comments made if people feel like their reputation is on the line.

There are, rarely, legitimate reasons to stay anonymous--and yours sounds like it may be one. And from your post above it sounds like you have an interesting point of view and have thought about the situation.

The whole point of pushing folks to use their real names is to encourage honesty. That won't work that way for you. :-) How about you adopt a consistent pen name--like anon/Tech or something. That way readers can learn over time whether to trust what you say. Not as good (from my point of view) as a name, But it works in the right direction.

Thanks!

Recon505 said...

Forgive me if this has been posted.

Has there been a discussion by those of us in favor of the F.T.T.H. project, concerning the possibility of launching a lawsuit against Eastin and Naquin for violating the rights of the public, since we voted in favor of this project going forward? The reason we have elections is to prevent tryanny by "the few" over "the many".
The election was legal, and "the many" are in favor.

John said...

Recon,

I don't know of any talkk about suits of this kind. My guess is that one wouldn't be successful. The law (rightly) gives people a lot of latitude. We pretty much err on the side of trusting people to do the right thing and not blocking their right to pursue their own idea of what the right thing is.

The problem is that in this case it is pretty clear that that trust is being abused in the service personal greed and corporate interests.

That's abuse.

The traditional and still best way to deal with this is not legal but social. Friends, neighbors, and relatives need to voice their personal disapproval. Few people care so little about their community and their social connections that they pursue their own narrow interests in the face of the community's disapproval.

Honestly, it would be enough if the Eastin and Naquin would insist that the Bond Issue shold be severed from any suit they back about rates. Holding that over the head of the community reveals the dishonesty of the rate suit.

GumboFilé said...

Recon,

The reason we have laws and courts is to prevent tyranny of "the few" by "the many" (aka, democracy).

David