People Get Ready

[ make levees, not war ]

We gunna need mo’ o’ dat tar and feather yeah

Posted by schroeder915 on January 3, 2006

Oh yeah cher — we gunna get a big ol’ gumbo pot on a fire:

It was Aug. 30 and the winds from Hurricane Katrina had barely died down, but Orleans Levee Board legal consultant George Carmouche already was cashing in on the storm by greatly expanding his previously limited role at the flood protection agency. …

Levee Board records show that during the next two months, Carmouche, his family and his law firm associates collected fees for everything from office space to boat salvage work to media consulting — a myriad of nonlegal services that currently total about $90,000 and counting.

Carmouche’s meter started running almost immediately: The day after the storm, he billed $1,200 for staying in phone contact with displaced board members and agency personnel, as well as for planning the relocation of the board’s administrative staff to his Baton Rouge law office. The next day, Aug. 31, he invoiced $1,140 for similar duties.

The billings accelerated in September when the Levee Board signed a lease for a vacant suite in a Baton Rouge building owned by Carmouche and his wife, Ann. The Perkins Road building also houses Carmouche’s law firm. With the board’s Lakefront offices in shambles, the Baton Rouge site is expected to serve as the agency’s temporary headquarters for months to come.

Submitting invoices listed under the heading “Levee Board reorganization,” Carmouche, a former state Senate staffer, charged his standard attorneys’ rate of $120 an hour — almost four times what the board paid its staff lawyer — for any work he performed, even if it involved no legal expertise.

Examples of the $120-an-hour duties for which Carmouche billed were chauffeuring Levee Board commissioners to and from Louis Armstrong International Airport, fielding phone calls from reporters, and ordering furniture and computer equipment for the board’s new home.

Through November, when Carmouche resigned under pressure from Huey’s former colleagues on the board, agency billing records show the tally for the lawyer’s nonlegal services had reached $67,631. The board continues to pay Carmouche $5,000 per month to rent the Baton Rouge office space.

There’s more …

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