Thursday, May 17, 2007

Slime: Naquin & Attorneys try to Drive up Bond Costs

Slime. Unprincipled, low-life slime.

That is the mildest and kindest epitaph that I can manage for Elizabeth Naquin, her Plaquimines attorneys and the incumbent corporations who are pretty obviously paying them off. The only possible purpose for stirring things up right now is to drive up the costs of the bonds that are to be marketed in New York next week. And that is plain, flat, wrong.

According to Kevin Blanchard over at the Advocate the attorneys for Naquin (BS/AT&T and/or Cox?) have shot off emails -- to the media -- threatening to sue Lafayette at some unspecified future moment over the plan to fund the construction of Lafayette's fiber network. That plan has already been approved by the court of last resort, the Louisiana Supreme Court, and the objections raised have already been dismissed. Further, according to the Louisiana constitution the bond ordinance becomes immune to challenge when it is validated and that immunity extends to:
“the validity of the . . . means provided for the payment of such bonds and the validity of all pledges of revenues and of all covenants and provisions contained in the instrument or proceedings authorizing or providing for the issuance of such bonds, and as to all matters adjudicated and as to all objections presented or which might have been presented in such proceeding, and shall constitute a permanent injunction against the institution by any person of any action or proceeding contesting the validity of the bonds or any other matter adjudicated or which might have been called in question in such proceedings.” [Legal citation from Ottinger's press release]
That is pretty conclusive. Let us be very plain: No one and no "thing" can challenge a bond once it has been validated and issued. The constitution is clear; no matter how defective a bond ordinance might prove to be, it cannot be changed after it has been validated and sold. The business plan supporting it is incorporated into the ordinance and becomes a contract with the bond holders. NOTHING can be done to change it. (Even if the court hadn't already ruled on the question.)

So this is clearly FUD--an attempt to sow Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. It cannot be a valid legal objection and would only result in ridicule if actually brought before a court.

The real question is: WHO are they trying to scare now? And the answer is plain: the men who will sit across the table from Lafayette's representatives setting up the bond sale. They would like to make those men fearful, uncertain, and doubtful. They hope those men will condition the bonds in such a way as to force millions more in interest costs on the people of Lafayette.

That the "lawyers" (aka PR agents for BS/AT&T and/or Cox?) are sending reporters multiple emails with their threatening "news" the week before the Lafayette team is set be in New York setting up the bond sale makes the whole slimy thing disgustingly transparent.

---------------------
To this point I've been willing to do no more than say that Naquin and her attorneys are pretty transparently serving the interests of AT&T (nee BS) and Cox. There is no money in a successful suit for Elizabeth Naquin and very little for her ambulance-chasing "personal injury" lawyers. With the Supreme Court decision they have lost all hope of ever being paid a penny by LUS or LCG on this case. Yet still they spend money on lawyers--money that cannot bring them any return. This has been an expensive lawsuit to carry forward--backed by a team of lawyers from several law firms, none of which are noted for their charity work. Someone is paying for this. Who benefits? Cox and BS/AT&T benefit. Who is hurt? The people of Lafayette.

Naquin is a new resident in Lafayette and clearly not a woman of means. She has been unwilling to make the slightest effort toward explaining to her neighbors why she wants to stand in their way and cost them millions of dollars in extra expenses to implement a decision that the people overwhelmingly approved in an hard-fought election.

This is a case made for investigative journalism. Who is Elizabeth Naquin? Why does she not have the decency to publicly justify the cost she is imposing on her new community. What is her connection with BellSouth and or Cox. What is her work history? When exactly did she move to Lafayette and why? Who is actually paying the expense of this series of lawsuits and threats? Are corporate funds or money from anyone employed by the incumbents involved. Are public relations firms involved in passing money on to its recipients? Which ones? What about Naquin's repentant ex-ally, Matthew Eastin? Who recruited this student? Where did he get the money to pay his "share" of the expenses while he was involved? Did he pay anything? Was he asked to? How much?

Really...these lawsuits are going to cost the citizens of the community millions of dollars. It is now past the point where there is any possible legal or ethical rationale that could justify the continued legal harassment and hence no conceivable reason to not thoroughly investigate this situation. (Recall the feeding frenzy about much less expensive irregularities at the airport commission?) There is a big story here somewhere; anyone can smell it and the people deserve to know. (ULL journalism students, anyone?)

I'd like to know more--if anyone out there can shed any light on this please let me know. Here or via email.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

You use the language "her ambulance-chasing "personal injury" lawyers." I am a personal injury lawyer and I take exception to your implication that we are slime. Just who do you think you are? Who appointed you Judge, Jury and executioner? You admit you pass judgment without any facts, only speculation, suspicion and unsubstantiated conjecture. Since you are the self appointed leader of this cause, I now question my own judgment of this issue.

John said...

Noticeably anonymous person,

If you are a personal injury lawyer feel free to leave your name and let me know something about who you are and why you are not slime. I make my judgments on an individual basis. I suspect that most personal injury lawyers are not. (Cruise to the other end of the link provided in the post above and you'll discover that I don't hide my identity and make claims about my profession that I am not willing to back with my name and reputation.)

However, I notice that you ARE NOT defending Naquin's lawyers. Perhaps you realize that some members of your profession could be fairly characterized as unsavory. (As could some of mine.) Are you willing to defend Naquin's lawyers? They, not you or any other lawyer are the targets of my ire.

I am perfectly willing to listen to your unsubstantiated and presumably better informed rationale for what could possibly be going on here. I can't see a better explanation than the one I provide for what seem to me the plain facts of the case.

(You'll probably not be surprised to know that the basic legal judgment about the poverty of this latest threat--and the opinion that the motivations of these lawyers and Naquin are unsavory are points that local lawyers have repeatedly made in their discussions with me. The anger is widespread among the legal types I know--possibly because they feel their profession is poorly represented by these guys.)

If you are a lawyer you will note that I didn't appoint myself to any role--I am offering my judgment. I don't pretend to be a lawyer or a reporter or an "executioner" and you'll not find anyplace that I have so implied. I am angry, I am a blogger and I am a passionate supporter of this small cause.

I think you will find that my judgment is shared by many people in Lafayette. The legal obstructionism has been hugely costly and impossible to justify on any credible "civic" basis any longer.

Anonymous said...

Was the plan approved by the Louisiana supreme court or did they rule on procudure?

John said...

Anonymous,

The Supreme Court ruled on the issue. A legal eagle I am not but here is how I understand the issue at hand: The LA Supreme Court ruled that LUS was correct in saying that this (and related) objections were not filed in a timely manner and so shouldn't have been entertained by the lower court. They also found other mistakes in the way the 3rd district used the law. These could be called procedural. But they also indicated as strongly as they could considering the shabby legal standing of the claim that they found this point (and points with which it was "intertwined") without merit--a clear indication of how they regarded the substance. (And a good sized rebuke on both levels to the third circuit on my reading.)

In any case, as Ottinger's quote from the law I cited above indicates, the force of the opinion is to validate the ordinance and fix as unchallengeable any and all issues supporting the bonds "which might have been called in question in such proceedings." This is intended to give bond-holders the security they need to know that the basic way that they are to be repaid won't be changed. With this decision those issues, whether dismissed procedurally or on their substance, are forever dead in reference to the bonds.

Or so I understand. Lawyer types I know are pretty insistent on the inviolability of bonds and claim it is solid. This actually offends my sense of fairness a bit but I understand why the state does it and am happy for its protection in this case.

There is a link to the decision in the post above if you'd like to come to your own conclusion.

Anonymous said...

I accept your appology.

Anonymous said...

Most of this is Greek to me, so can you explain how do the emails attempt to drive up the bond cost? If they are as solid as they say what is the threat?
I have found this to be a very interesting issue but very confusing. I have a hard time understanding why an email would have any impact on the sale of bonds that are supported by the majority. I have picked up this issue late but your blog has provided a thorough background of information. This site has provided a excellent reference

John said...

Re: anonymous Re: "apology:"

You've been watching waaay too much Stephen Colbert.

John said...

Anonymous (New Anon??)

About the connection between emails and bond rates.

It is all pretty confusing. And I am not necessarily clear about making all the links explicit.

Here's the way I see it: If these lawyers felt they had a case why not file a lawsuit? They haven't, instead they've issued a press release. And issued it months after they lost but only one week before the terms of the bond sale are to be agreed upon.

Why behave this way? Threatening to jeopardize the bonding authority of LCG is really not credible (I hope I established that above.) But can the bond attorneys in New York be certain of that? Naquin's attorneys telling the press (not a court) that they intend to sue if LUS pays off the bond the way it has publicly said it would can only be intended to make those bond attorneys just a little more uncertain than they were before. Bond issues are rated by these guys for "quality" and the highest qualtiy rating (least risky) gets the lowest interest rates. LUS has always gotten the highest rating...and would like to do so again, obviously.

Any doubt introduced in this moment can only hurt LUS...a tenth of percentage point will be a huge amount of money over the life of the loan. That would drive up the costs all of us in Lafayette would pay for LUS services.

But, in this instance, what hurts our citizens would benefit the incumbents Cox and BS/AT&T. They wouldn't have to lower their prices as much as they would otherwise to compete and might have an easier time holding onto market share.

As far as I can see no one else could benefit from this move.

Anonymous said...

OK
I understand why this cast some doubt on the intention of the emails. I am with you on the timing theory but I just can't believe AT&T of COX would risk their reputation in an area like Lafayette. I would think there is some association that would be doing the dirty work for them. Have you had many dealings with the Cable and Telecommunications Association. Didn't they file with BellSouth? I would think a corporation this size that was going to file a suit would stand up and take a position. I have a hard time believing they would risk what little reputation they have left in the Acadiana region.

John said...

Anon (one of..?),

Re: Would Cox and AT&T be so foolish?

It does seem incredibly foolish to take such a risk, I can only agree. But the evidence is that they are willing to do so since they have before--and at a time when the good will of the people of Acadiana could have conceivably have benefited them.

You'll probably recall the incredibly bad publicity that they got when they ran a SECOND offensive push poll. Cox intially obfuscated. BellSouth directly denied involvement. Since ample evidence had emerged that an agency known to be in Cox's employ had run the poll (Verne Kennedy out of Florida) Cox, no doubt feeling like it had been left holding the bag, fessed up and implicated BellSouth with an "It was their idea" accusation.

This was an entirely avoidable public relations disaster. And still, when they thought they could keep it secret, they decided to go for it anyway. The Independent canceled an ongoing contract with Kennedy (a measure of how poisonous association with the incumbents had become), and news, letters, and editorials in the dailies were scorching. I think the referendum vote was solidified then and there.

So they have done really stupid things in the past when they thought their culpability would be deniable. And the client-attorney privilege is much better shield than they've ever had before.

As to whether a front group like a LCTA is actually the go-between (or some supplier or PR agency might be convinced to play the role of actually handling the requisite money--I don't know. But I don't think it would fool many people if they tried such a trick.

Between the timing, the legal poverty of the claim, and the impossibility of actually stopping the bond issue or the already-approved method for paying it off I don't see where anyone, anywhere has a legitimate motive to pursue this at this time... Only the incumbents can benefit from casting unjustified doubt on the bond's security and any resulting interest bump. They'd like their competition to be as expensive as is possible.

Anonymous said...

Why did they not run with the cable bill this year? I don't think they are looking at the state as a place of interest anymore. They are so big now!! If the cable bill wasn't improtant why would they have interest in one market? I know you question AT&T but I think there is a bigger picture here for them and I still believe they have some other organization doing the dirty work. I respect your opinion but I think you may be a little off on this call. keep up the work because I think you bring up a number of good points.

John said...

Anon,

I might well be wrong here...but I've never thought that it had to be Cox or BS/AT&T doing this directly--I'm only arguing that their history indicates that have made similar mistakes in the past. Regrdless they pretty much have to be the motivation and the source of resources--it isn't in anyone else's interests.

An example of my misreading a situation is the cable bill you mention. I really thought they'd take another run and argued the point with friends concerned about the issue. I was wrong :-).

Their argument was that 1) As the bill progressed last time opposition was firming up and it wouldn't be as easy a run this year. And, more signficantly in my view: 2) That Kathleen Blanco remained opposed and they saw no utility in courting conflict only to have a new bill vetoed like last year's. (Especially if they think things will be much easier next year.)

Anonymous said...

In the words of Steven Colbert, "If I insinuate it, its a fact". Sound familer?

John said...

Anono,

You've got trouble with the imprecise use of words. Insinuation occurs when people don't directly say what they mean.

(That is what you are doing in your last post.)

My best guess is that what really troubles you is not my indirect speech but my very direct speech.

I am saying exactly what I think. And not hiding behind anonymity.

This is in noticeable contrast to you, who, very clearly, lacks the courage of your convictions.

Anonymous said...

I have to believe Gov Blancovich would have VETOED a cable bill this year also. I think there are some very personal reasons that may have some influence on her dicision. Her daughter who works for COX and her son who just signed a contract with a fishing show that is also carried by the network. Raymond Jr.

Keep up the work.

Chris