NAKAMOTO: Contract conundrum raises questions about the 'good ole boy network on steroids'
BATON ROUGE- Corruption watchdogs are calling for a top-to-bottom audit of a contract that was awarded in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic costing you nearly $50 million dollars.
In June of 2020, the WBRZ Investigative Unit exposed a questionable contract awarded to a company while no-bid provisions were in effect due to the coronavirus. It raised questions then about whether one of the people employed by the company that received the contract crossed the line.
The contracts were awarded by the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) and went toward setting up a field hospital at the Ernst N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. One of the companies that was awarded a $45 million contract employed General Glenn Curtis, who retired from the Louisiana National Guard months earlier, as the Director of Operations.
At the time, the state said there was no conflict of interest because the state did not enter into a contract with the general but entered into a contract with Dynamic Construction instead.
"There is no conflict as it relates to GOHSEP entering into a contract with Dynamic," Veronica Sizer, Executive Counsel for GOHSEP, said. "If a conflict exists for any individual within Dynamic, that would be a determination by the State Ethics Board."
CHANGE ORDER ISSUED DAYS LATER
With the ink barely dry on the contract that was signed on March 27, 2020, a change order was issued in the sum of $14,392,744.
Unknown to the WBRZ Investigative Unit and the public then-- that change order went directly to General Glenn Curtis' company that he set up called JRC Development, LLC in the amount of $1,125,000.
One of Curtis' close associates, Colonel Jennifer Mumme, set up a company called JC2, LLC days before the original contract was signed on March 27 for the covid field hospital. In the change order, her company was awarded $510,600 even though it was only a few days old.
That change order also names a company called Iron Horse Construction. A search of Secretary of State records show that company belongs to Jimmie McCoy. He is the father of Dynamic Construction's owner. Iron Horse was named in the change order for $3,966,515.
CORRUPTION WATCHDOGS CALL FOR FULL AUDIT
Rafael Goyeneche, the President of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, weighed in on the contract problem back in 2020.
"We didn't know then what you've presented me today," Goyeneche said. "Even without knowing this, my comments three years ago were the entire process I believe was tainted by the fact that General Curtis left the National Guard and immediately was part of a construction team that got a lucrative contract."
Again, unknown at the time, Curtis actually received a contract through a change order to his company.
"It's pretty obvious based on the change order that was issued that totaled $14 million of the initial contract, some of the parties involved in this were aware of a potential change order. At least one formed an LLC a few days before they were part of a change order."
Goyeneche calls this new information even more problematic.
"This is I think a good ol' boy network on steroids," Goyeneche said. "This is even more concerning. I thought it was concerning three years ago. Now, I think there needs to be an audit conducted of this entire process."
Days after the contract was awarded, Governor John Bel Edwards issued a proclamation suspending the state's ethics laws.
Though the laws were in place at the time the contract was signed, Goyeneche believes a clever workaround was exploited.
"I believe either the Louisiana Inspector General's office or the federal inspector general's office needs to oversee the funds that were provided to the state of Louisiana from a federal agency for this hospital," Goyeneche said. "This to me, requires a complete audit to determine what services were delivered for these funds that were part of the change orders."
NO RESPONSE FROM THE PARTIES WHO RECEIVED MILLIONS
The WBRZ Investigative Unit reached out to Dynamic Construction, General Glenn Curtis, and Colonel Jennifer Mumme for a comment on this story.
At the time we did the story in 2020, Dynamic did not reveal that Curtis had actually received a contract. Instead, the company issued this statement.
For this story exposing the millions that the parties received above, no response was given.
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