Said to be ‘deleted’ in a cover-up, former LUS director’s emails were never missing

Photo courtesy The Acadiana Advocate
Former LUS Director Terry Huval

The gist: Walking back an allegation central to the lingering scandal around LUS, Lafayette’s city-parish attorney admitted in the wee hours of Tuesday night’s council meeting that thousands of former LUS Director Terry Huval’s emails were never missing. The purportedly missing emails were a key factor in the Guillory administration’s request for a criminal investigation into LUS.

City-Parish Attorney Greg Logan made the startling admission in a late-night dialogue with City Councilman Glenn Lazard. Lazard raised the issue near the end of a marathon council meeting, noting that the “media” had inquired with him about it (start at about the 30-minute mark). Responding to Lazard’s questioning at Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s behest, Logan at first hedged his answer but acknowledged that no “huge discrepancy” was found as previously asserted and went on to say “some or all” of the emails were located, never once indicating there had been any evidence of deletion or attempted deletion.

“There’s no way to put a file back together,” Logan said, attempting to explain the server archive that maintains email records. “They’re coming from many places.” Tired but seemingly energized by what he was hearing, Lazard responded: “So it’s a possibility that we’re able to obtain all of them?”

“Correct,” Logan said, reversing course on a shocking accusation he made in February. 

Lazard wants to get to the bottom of what happened. “I want to know why the council wasn’t notified that the emails were found,” Lazard says. The councilman says he plans to add to the next meeting’s agenda an item calling for a public discussion “of the entire LUS investigation. I want a status report and update,” he says. 

Guillory and Logan have reportedly known the records weren’t missing for months but have remained silent. In the meantime, wounds in LUS’s reputation have been left to fester. Inside sources say it wasn’t long after the allegation was made public that the “missing” emails were “found.” The allegation first appeared in a letter authored by Logan and sent to the Louisiana State Police requesting an investigation on Feb. 6. Claiming a “glaring example of destruction of public records,” the letter asserts that Huval’s email counts in 2011 were thousands short compared with other years. It was 2011 that Huval developed a pricing model for outage monitoring services that generated $8 million in what Guillory and his predecessor allege were “improper” transactions from LUS to LUS Fiber for about eight years. Huval has publicly defended the monitoring system and denies wrongdoing

Logan went further in his letter to allege the email records were not just missing, but purposely removed in a criminal cover-up. “It appears that there was somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 of Terry Huval’s e-mails deleted for the 2011 time period,” the attorney wrote. “We believe that certain individuals at LUS and LUS Fiber are guilty of injuring public records; theft; malfeasance and/or criminal mischief. We further believe there may be additional crimes uncovered when a thorough external criminal investigation is conducted.”

At the end of Tuesday’s marathon trio of council meetings, City Councilman Glenn Lazard was able to get the administration to acknowledge that it had found emails it claimed in a letter to state police earlier this year had been illegally deleted.

That letter was made public only hours after Guillory dropped a bombshell on local radio station KPEL, claiming that Lafayette City Police had “raided” LUS last year under Joel Robideaux’s administration. Guillory told the station he’d put four unnamed employees on paid leave after a “whistleblower” alerted him that documents and emails had been destroyed. The so-called “raid” was apparently linked to Robideaux’s ongoing internal investigation into questionable payments from LUS to LUS Fiber, allegedly to prop up the municipal telecom in violation of state law. Lafayette Police Department officials later said there were “no findings of a raid.” 

Logan’s letter singled out Huval in pointed terms while keeping the four other LUS managers linked to the allegations unnamed. In a radio interview, however, Guillory claimed the discretion afforded the employees in not identifying them was a matter of due process. 

Guillory has consistently messaged in public statements his belief that the payments to LUS Fiber were illegal. As recently as June 17, the administration again referenced the destruction of email records in a legal memo. The Oats and Marino law firm, acting as assistant city-parish attorneys, referenced the whistleblower complaint in a letter that laid out a foundation for firing LUS’s consulting engineer, which has criticized the administration’s decision to keep interim Director Lowell Duhon in his post despite his lack of qualifications. “A whistleblower warned LCG that emails and possibly other documents regarding illegal charges to LUS were being deleted,” attorney Larry Marino wrote. The letter went on to say that the whistleblower investigation had been completed and that two of the “implicated” LUS managers had resigned while the other two were reinstated. Again, while Marino inserts the allegation about deleted emails, there is no mention of the fact that they had already been located.

The administration has for months dodged questions about those emails from this news organization and repeatedly refused to turn over email logs that would have helped explain how Logan came up with the numbers he used in the letter to state police.

Logan has not responded to requests for comment; more than two months ago at a coronavirus press briefing, he and Guillory refused to acknowledge this reporter’s question about whether they would have immediately notified Stutes upon discovering the emails weren’t missing.  

Terry Huval declined to comment for this story. 

No decision has been made about whether the district attorney will open an investigation. Stutes tells The Current Logan provided him with additional information at the end of May, and those documents are still under review. At the time, Logan indicated there was more information to come, Stutes says. 

The forensic audit promised by the administration is also forthcoming. Separate from the criminal allegations, the audit is pursuing an independent review of the payments parallel to the administration’s own inquiry. The Louisiana Public Service Commission did find “the appearance of self-dealing” in $1.7 million in payments to LUS Fiber for lift station communication lines that were never connected. Those payments were self-reported and paid back. Beyond that, the PSC has been silent on the issue. 

LUS has been under siege since the Robideaux administration tried unsuccessfully to privatize its management, a move so unsettling to Huval that he retired early in protest in July 2018. LUS and Fiber have both been without permanent leadership in the ensuing two years, while the sister systems face existential headwinds

About the Author

A founding editor of both The Independent and ABiz and senior editor at The Times of Acadiana in the 1990s, Leslie Turk has worked in the newspaper business in Lafayette for almost three decades. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times and The Acadiana Advocate. Email her at leslie@thecurrentla.com.

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