Monday, June 30, 2008

NOAH's A Farce {UPDATED}

Three cheers to Karen Gadbois for uncovering the latest in efficient and transparent municipal governance.

Apparently, New Orleans Affordable Housing or NOAH was given 2-4 million dollars in taxes to funnel to different contractors to gut homes for seniors and low income residents.

NOAH has been in existence since the late 80s but it launched Mayor Nagin's remediation program was launched after the storm. That link yields a press release from March of 2007, though the program had already been in full swing for an unclear amount of time before then. (This is a hole that we'll need to get filled in)

To date, NOAH has remediated nearly 350 properties throughout the city of New Orleans, with the majority of those properties located in District D, which includes Gentilly, Pontilly and Gentilly Woods. They have utilized the following ten contractors: Biagas Enterprises, BNOB Construction Services, Carter’s Renovations, Charbonnet, Inc General Contractors, Blue Carpentry Construction Co., Matthews Developers, Myers and Sons Enterprises, W.T. Verges Construction Co, General Contracting Co., Inc., and Moon-Glo Developers. NOAH will meet with an additional ten contractors from the Office of Planning and Development Certified Contractors List in an effort to work with all of the contractors on the list.

Karen Gadbois has recently noticed brand new signs on homes around town touting NOAH's remediation successes. She has also noticed that some of the same homes are now slated for demolition as imminent heath threats.

So to recap, the City spent CBDG funds to clean out the house and then spends FEMA funds to demolish it. The other comical element is that the signs are NEW and they still have Donna Addkison listed as a City employee. In the last 2 years I have seen 4 of these signs and all of them in the last month.

What a sleuth, eh?

We've still got a lot of questions to answer about the transparency in the demolition process.

But this one isn't just about the demolition committee and that messed up process.

Take a look at that press release again.

They have utilized the following ten contractors: Biagas Enterprises, BNOB Construction Services, Carter’s Renovations, Charbonnet, Inc General Contractors, Blue Carpentry Construction Co., Matthews Developers, Myers and Sons Enterprises, W.T. Verges Construction Co, General Contracting Co., Inc., and Moon-Glo Developers.

Who the hell are these guys?

I was reading Karen's post late last night -

{I know that it reflects poorly on the popular perception of E from WeCouldBeFamous as a handsome and charming late-night galavanter to admit to staying in and researching municipal mismanagement on a Saturday night but in fairness to that popular (and totally accurate) perception, I'm in the middle of moving to my new loft condo space.}

Anyways, it was just past midnight and I saw Karen's post and wondered about those contractors. I'd never heard of any of them.

So I took out my magical google machine and looked up the first one on the list, Biagas Enterprises. Their website listed a toll-free phone number. I decided, to give that 866 number a call. I figured I could easily figure out if this was a real company or not upon hitting the answering machine. I knew I'd hit the answering machine because it was 12:30 AM on a Sunday.

Turns out someone was on the other end. A woman's voice.

"Hello?"

I hung up figuring I must have misdialed.

I didn't.

I got a phone call 10 minutes later from another number, a local area code. It was the woman at the other end of the 866 I dialed. She asked if I had called her.

I said, "yes I was trying to call a construction company, I thought I'd dialed an 866 number."

She replied:

"No, this is a 225 area code."

The number she'd called me back from matched a directory listing for Biagas Enterprises in Baton Rouge.

This episode struck me as extremely bizarre. I supposed that you could reroute a toll free number to go to a cell phone. And I supposed that this could be a small enough mom-and-pop construction firm that it wouldn't have a business landline. (Even though Thaddeus 'Matt' Biagas has "a long history in government projects.")

Anyways, I decided to just go ahead and google machine the other contractors on the list.

The only hit for "Carter's Renovations" is the Nagin press release I already linked to. There's not even a directory listing - in all of google.

I coud only find the press release for various searches for a phone number or website for "Charbonnet."

Good luck on "Inc. General Contractors."

Ditto for "Blue Carpentry Construction Co."

I found a "Mathews Developers" based out of Illinois.

I was able to find a directory listing for "Myers and Sons Enterprises" and will have to try to call tomorrow.

Couldn't find much on "Moon-glo developers" but they showed up on a Louisiana list of accredited lead supervisors.

There is a directory listing for "W.T. Verges Construction Company."

"General Contracting Co." has a listing and the phone number was legit, at least according to the irritable man on the other end of the line. He still wants to know why I was asking questions about his phone number.

The only exception to this general pattern was "BNOB Construction Services" which has a professional website, a big internet footprint, and has clearly been awarded many larger-sized contracts.

For at least a couple of these companies, I was able to find obscure online directory listings last night but couldn't find them again this evening. For a few, I couldn't find anything last night or this evening. I'm sure with a little bit more time, we might be able to find something on the internets for most of the firms, but it doesn't seem like it will to amount to much.

So I'm not sure what's going on here.

But it's something.

In talking to People That I Know Who Might Know Something, or PTIKWMKS, I have learned that there have been rumblings about NOAH and NOAH contractors for some months.

Some of the firms may be dummies or fronts to funnel money to family members of people that are already famous.

We need to get the names behind these companies and see who they've donated money to.

Feel free to pitch in with what you know or are able to find out in the comments.

I'm very late for work so I've got to sign off for a little while.

UPDATE:

To add a little more, I'll say that I've been hearing that these quasi-dummy contractor fronts may be tied to well-known municipal officials.

MONDAY EVENING UPDATE:

Karen is visiting homes "serviced" by NOAH's remediation program. It would appear that perhaps some of these properties were not visited by contractors. The property that Karen shows us today is owned, in violation of NOAH rules, by a delinquent landlord, not a low income senior.

In the comments section, an Anonymous points out that NOAH is not in good standing with the state for failure to provide annual reports.

Additionally, many of the contractors are also not in good standing and at least one of them does not appear to exist at all.

I am in the middle of a move but I will document that with links as soon as I can.

Finally, I called NOAH's office today to request a list of homes awarded free remediation. The woman on the other end of the line was extremely defensive and informed me that they had never received such a request before. When inquired as to the proper procedure for obtaining the records, she told me that she would have to refer it to lawyers at another agency. She then told me that NOAH was in the middle of changing offices and did not have an opporational email account to which I could send an electronic request.

The response to this story has been great so far, I think we can get to the bottom of it.

23 comments:

LatinTeacher said...

On the one hand, if these are dummy fronts to funnel money, they should get busted. And it is odd that they are remediating houses to tear them down. Ready, Fire, Aim!

On the other hand, my brother owns his own contracting company down there and I am pretty sure you couldn't find a listing for his company (I couldn't) though he does honest, good, inexpensive work. He just doesn't have the time or resources to get his info on the web.

This is a fascinating story. Keep after them.

celcus said...

E,

http://www.lslbc.louisiana.gov/
findcontractor.asp

However, the contractors license may not be recorded under the name of the business, but under an individual's name.

http://www400.sos.louisiana.gov/
app1/paygate/crpinq.jsp

I don't know how up to date the records are.

E said...

Latinteacher

You're right about that. I entertained the possibility that the NOAH program was designed to reach out to small mom & pop contractors That was before I learned that these firms have already aroused some investigative suspicion from unknowns higher up on the food chain.

Anonymous said...

Charter/Organization ID: 34319752N

Name: NEW ORLEANS AFFORDABLE HOMEOWNERSHIP, INCORPORATED

Prior Name: URBAN HOMEOWNER'S CORPORATION OF NEW ORLEANS ( 8/07/1995)

Type Entity: Non-Profit Corporation

Status: Active

Annual Report Status: Not In Good Standing for failure to file current Annual Report

Last Report Filed on 11/28/2006

2007 Annual Report is required at this time Print Annual Report Form For Filing

Mailing Address: 1340 POYDRAS STREET, 10TH FLOOR, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70112

Domicile Address: 1340 POYDRAS ST., 10TH FL., NEW ORLEANS, LA 70112

File Date: 12/21/1988

Registered Agent (Appointed 8/07/1995): AVIS RUSSELL, CITY ATTORNEY, CITY OF NEW ORLEANS, 1300 PERDIDO ST., RM. 5E01, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70112

President: RON MCCLAIN, 1340 POYDRAS STREET, 10TH FLOOR, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70119

Vice President: ED SHANKLIN, 1340 POYDRAS STREET, 10TH FLOOR, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70119

Director: STACEY L. JACKSON, 1340 POYDRAS STREET, 10TH FLOOR, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70119

Amendments on File
NAME CHANGE (08/07/1995)
DOMICLE, AGENT CHG OR RESIGN OF AGT (10/05/1990)
AMENDMENT (08/29/1989)

bayoustjohndavid said...

BNOB was formed by Scott Sewell in November 2005. I forget what it was that Sewell did with the Interior Department that got him a small amount of national notoriety. Locally, both Sewell and Benetech have made a few appearances at American Zombie. And Sewell also had a hand in Southern Scrap Metal, which was involved in the junk car fiasco.

E said...

Great stuff. Keep it coming.

I'm not surprised that NOAH is in poor standing.

I tried to request information today from them. I was told over the phone that they don't have an email address.

Civitch said...

Lies, all lies. They do have an email address, and it's sstaceyjacks67@aol.com. I suggest that we all drop her a line and request information as to the disposition of the millions of dollars of taxpayer funds that her agency has (allegedly) spent to help the elderly in our midst. Sounds like she'll jump at the opportunity to defend her agency's spending.

E said...

COOL!

Where'd ya get that?

Civitch said...

Let's just say that NOAH owns some property in my immediate vicinity, and that there have been numerous management issues.

Their website lists another email address for Miss Jackson: sjackson@noahinc.org. Their whole website is rather amusing, in a pathetic sort of way. www.noahinc.org.

Also, NOAH's registered agent is "Avis Russell, City Attorney." Miss Russell hasn't been the City Attorney for at least 7 years.

E said...

Right, the email address listed for Ms. Jackson on the website does not work. So AOL Mail it is.

Clay said...

Fantastic reporting.

Anonymous said...

hey civitch,

i tried to find properties they owned but only found one. can you give us one address to start?

http://www.opboa.org/Search/GenericSearch.aspx?mode=OWNER&sIndex=0&mod=LastSearch

http://www.cityofno.com/pg-137-1.aspx

cheers

Civitch said...

Sometimes, and for reasons that remain a mystery, NOAH is listed as "N O AFFORDABLE HOMEOWNERSHIP." Same with NORA's properties. Anyway, here's the most complete list I could come up with:

1329-31 Governor Nicholls Street

1011 N. Villere Street

1013 N. Villere Street

Mayo and Dwyer Roads (vacant land)

13545 and 13565 Chef Menteur Highway

2034 Deslonde Street

2138 Deslonde Street

1909 Foucher

2458 N. Robertson

1427 Ursulines

Anonymous said...

Besides Shanklin, who is on the NOAH board? These folks were asleep at the wheel. Terminating staff is one thing, but I wonder if any board members are in the mix of this mess as well.

Anonymous said...

You wonder who Biagas Enterprises is...well, Biagas Enterprises was started 22 years ago as a home based construction company in Eastern New Orleans. Not sure where the information about a long history with government contracts comes from or what it is eluding to, but the government contracts that can associated with Biagas Enterprises and Thaddeus Biagas are mostly Federal Government contracts. It has been of recent that Biagas Enterpises has been awarded contracts by the city.
Your phone call to the 800 number is correct, why not give clients and customers an easier way to contact you. Seems customer friendly to me. Now I think if you would have done more research, you would have learned that Biagas Enterprises has been temporarily located in Baton Rouge since Hurricane Katrina, it's not hidden. What's wrong with that? And yes the phone does ring to a home number in Baton Rouge, you probably spoke with Mrs. Biagas, or one of Mr. Biagas' daughters. Can't figure out for the love of me why someone would want to play on the phone at that time of the morning. But Again, I ask what's wrong with the number ringing to the home? haven't you heard of call forwarding??? Now as recent as today, City Business has published an article on this same matter, wherein many of the contractors that did work for NOAH or are on the list to do work for NOAH have stated that they were either not contacted or not paid timely. I can tell you for a fact that on several occasions for work I know was completed on this project, that Mr. Biagas had to pay workers out of his pocket and sit an wait for a check from the city. So before you began pointing fingers at all the contractors involved, let the investigation pan out and those that have done wrong will be pointed out.

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, had you done real research on Biagas Enterprises, not only would you have found out that they had an office building located in New Orleans, but you would have also come to realize that its office was burglarized and burned on Christmas 2007. Probably by someone the likes of you. So to insinuate that Biagas Enterprises is not legit or is attempting some sort of fraud is ludicrous based on the fact that the number you dialed was forwarded to a home number....you know what....I think the Biagas' ought find out who you are....and file suit against you for defamation, libel....find someone to attack!!!!

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