Tip to investigators spurred report of free Fiber services for Guillory team

Josh Guillory at a press conference in August 2022
Former M-P Josh Guillory, his family and ex-members of his administration were implicated in a report suggesting they received free LUS Fiber services. Guillory and his staffers deny the allegations. Photo by Travis Gauthier

Investigators with the Louisiana legislative auditor relayed a tip to local auditors about suspicious billing on LUS Fiber accounts owned by top officials in the Guillory administration, sparking a report this week suggesting the former mayor-president and others in his inner circle received some services free of charge. 

State auditors, who began an investigation into the Guillory administration in early 2023, punted the matter over to local authorities to look into as part of their regular auditing duties. Those implicated in the release of a sample report, including former Mayor-President Josh Guillory and some of his top lieutenants, have denied wrongdoing, with Guillory saying publication of the findings is political. 

“This is clearly political. It doesn’t need to be. I’m not running for mayor-president, I’m not a candidate for any office, and I truly wish the best for the current administration,” Guillory said in a statement to The Current. “The mayor-president remains in my prayers, and I am pulling for our city and parish.” 

As mayor-president, Guillory publicly accused LUS and LUS Fiber employees of a coverup conspiracy involving “deleted emails,” emails he and his legal team knew within days of the accusations were never missing — as well as their attempts to have Fiber reimburse LUS for services they claimed LUS never received.

LUS Fiber employees recently pored through specific and (what appears to be) random accounts for discrepancies after the LLA, which has yet to make any of its own findings public, handed the matter over to Kolder, Slaven & Company. Auditors specifically looked into the accounts of Guillory’s family and some, but not all, of his top staff from his term as M-P.

“We always get these requests [from the LLA],” auditor Burton Kolder tells The Current. “We did test some of the accounts [LUS Fiber had flagged], and we tested some on our own that were not on their list.” Kolder says the audit firm’s work product is not a public record. 

But LUS Fiber’s sample set with names attached to the accounts (account numbers and service addresses were redacted) is a public record and was produced after The Current requested the information, an inquiry prompted by the release of LCG’s annual audit in late April. 

LUS Fiber sign

That audit documented that numerous Amazon Fire Sticks and a PlayStation 5 were missing from LUS Fiber, and noted discrepancies in anonymous accounts. Auditors, however, did write that receiving free services and/or an increased level of services greater than being billed could violate the state constitution. 

The sample set detailed reviews of accounts owned by Guillory and his wife and his mother-in-law, former City-Parish Attorney Greg Logan, former LUS Fiber Director Ryan Meche, former Public Works Director Chad Nepveaux, among others. Lafayette Fire Chief Robert Benoit and Assistant City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert were also listed with additional services. 

Accounts were paying for some services but receiving additional premium TV or internet packages valued at higher costs than what those accounts were paying. View the account review summary here

Nepveaux did not respond to a text message seeking comment. Benoit and Hebert say they were unaware they were getting additional services, with Hebert believing the mistake on his account may be attributable to him being a longtime test user. Benoit provided a copy of his auto pay history and says he didn’t use any services beyond those for which he was billed. 

Logan and Meche deactivated some of their accounts after Guillory’s defeat last year, making it difficult to determine what they were getting versus what they were paying for. The notes for Meche indicate he downgraded his internet and canceled his ConnectTV on Dec. 29. The notes for Logan, who is shown to have three accounts, state that he recently deactivated ConnectTV and “was provisioned with far more options than what was being paid for.” 

“It was just saving money, is all it was,” Meche says, denying that received services he didn’t pay for and can’t recall what package he had before making the change. Logan similarly denied getting more than he paid for. 

The apparent misuse of discounts and free services to benefit individuals with insider connections is disheartening and contrary to our community goals. We need a robust auditing process now more than ever, to restore integrity and trust in our services.

Lafayette tech consultant Doug Menefee

Guillory and Logan both produced copies of billing invoices documenting services they paid for, saying any excessive service would have been an accident. “[I]f I was paying for the highest level of service [internet and ConnectTV] how could my account be provisioned for far more than I was paying for,” Logan wrote in an email response.

LCG officials say adjustments to the accounts have since been made to ensure customers are getting only what they are paying for. Still unknown is the extent to which mistakes were made, the number of accounts that may have been “test user” accounts without proper documentation, or whether any of this was intentional. A public records request seeking additional information from LCG is pending.  

At this time, there is no indication LCG plans to take further action to root out any potential corruption. In response to the audit’s findings, the Boulet administration said it will implement new policies that require documentation from a customer before changes are made to services. “LUS Fiber staff will not make provisioning changes without an order,” the administration responded, noting the changes may take two to four months to complete. 

But there may be calls for a deeper dive into problems at Fiber, especially from its early proponents who continue to advocate for fiber to the home. 

“Twenty years ago, LUS Fiber was envisioned as a tool to bridge the digital divide, not to deepen it,” says local technology consultant Doug Menefee. “The apparent misuse of discounts and free services to benefit individuals with insider connections is disheartening and contrary to our community goals. We need a robust auditing process now more than ever, to restore integrity and trust in our services.” 

The loss to Fiber’s revenue stream is still unclear, as no amounts are listed in the sample of accounts. But if accurate, some of the losses from the handful of accounts likely climb into the thousands of dollars, figures that would depend on how long the free services were in place. In part because some of the services were hooked up off the books, sources tell The Current more work would need to be done to match up the system’s records to determine how long the problems persisted.