The gist: A key member of Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s staff has tested positive for COVID-19, but the administration is not divulging what it has done to protect others the employee was in contact with.
Lafayette’s city and parish councils passed a compromise budget that doesn’t address any of the city’s or parish’s major budgetary problems.
The gist: City-parish attorneys kicked the findings of a forensic auditor’s report into suspect transactions between LUS and LUS Fiber to the FBI, according to email correspondence with council members. Based on the same evidence in that forensic audit report, and other documents previously handed over, the district attorney declined to prosecute crimes alleged by the Guillory administration.
No evidence of malfeasance, records destruction or other crimes by former LUS director, district attorney finds
The gist: Despite persistent efforts, the Guillory administration failed to mount a compelling ad hoc criminal case against longtime LUS and LUS Fiber Director Terry Huval, the district attorney concludes in a pair of letters to LCG’s legal department and the mayor-president obtained by The Current through a public records request. Further, District Attorney Keith Stutes insists what LCG alleged was a criminal scheme to cover up “illegal” subsidies of LUS Fiber is exclusively a matter for the Louisiana Public Service Commission, which has limited oversight of Fiber.
While Lafayette’s economic forecast isn’t bright, it’s not near as dark as the mayor-president has made it out to be. That means the City Council can avoid drastic cuts.
The gist: A legal path has been cleared for the family of Trayford Pellerin to see the body-worn camera footage documenting the 31-year-old’s fatal encounter with Lafayette police. After a lengthy parlay among lawyers representing Pellerin’s family, Lafayette Consolidated Government and the three media organizations on one hand and the officers involved in the shooting on the other, a temporary restraining order granted to the officers, which blocked release of the video and other evidence, was dismissed Tuesday.
The gist: Over the objections of City-Parish Attorney Greg Logan, who called the ordinance “illegal,” the Lafayette City Council voted 3-1 last week to hire Baton Rouge attorney Lea Anne Batson to represent its interests in determining how city tax dollars are spent.
The gist: A district judge granted a temporary restraining order Tuesday afternoon preventing the release of police body cam video and other evidence related to the Aug. 21 shooting of Trayford Pellerin. Officers involved in the fatal encounter, in which Pellerin was struck 10 times by police gunfire, sought the order to protect their identities.
Trayford Pellerin’s family secures commitment from Guillory to see body cam footage in first steps toward reconciliation
The gist: A raw, two-hour meeting between Josh Guillory and the family of Trayford Pellerin yielded a cautiously improved rapport and a commitment from the mayor-president to show the family body cam footage documenting Pellerin’s killing by Lafayette police. The conciliatory meeting, coming two weeks after the 31-year-old Black man’s death, sketched a framework for longer term progress on race and policing in Lafayette.
Allowing the family to see the video would help bring clarity and closure to a publicly volatile situation. Through their attorney, Ronald Haley, the family commended Guillory’s efforts at reconciliation. The family has consistently called for more transparency from the administration and investigators, a push that has been echoed and amplified by protestors for weeks. Haley applauded the mayor-president’s contrition, accepting it as sincere, but promised to hold Guillory to his word on several commitments, such that the “olive branch” extended would bear fruit.
“The family got more out of the meeting than they anticipated they were going to get,” Pellerin attorney Ronald Haley told reporters minutes after the meeting. “We have to continue to hold the mayor’s feet to the fire,” Haley said. Guillory accepted an invitation to Pellerin’s funeral this Thursday.
Guillory’s spokesman says the mayor-president is “hell-bent” on following through. Chief Communications Officer Jamie Angelle tells The Current the administration does not anticipate any roadblocks in showing the family the footage. Should any appear, he says, the public will hear about it from an outraged Guillory.
A lack of clarity has pulled the story of Pellerin’s death in contrasting directions. Relying on grainy footage from bystanders, locals have seized on unconfirmed details to peg his death as a tragic but justifiable precaution or yet another example of racist and deadly police violence. Outside of investigators, no one has seen exactly what happened to Pellerin, and speculation and anger have run rampant in the vacuum. Haley released the findings of an independent autopsy report this week, challenging the official narrative offered by the administration and state police, which is investigating the shooting, since shortly after Pellerin’s death. Reports by local media seized on details suggesting Pellerin wasn’t tased, which would contradict official reports from the scene and some accounts from bystanders.
Video evidence could shed light on the steps police took to avoid killing Pellerin. Initial statements from the mayor-president, who told Pellerin’s family he had not seen the body cam footage himself, backed the police account of the shooting, claiming police took steps — such as firing tasers — to de-escalate the encounter. The family and social justice activists have contested that narrative, saying it fails common sense. Officers hit Pellerin 10 times in a flurry of gun fire that shattered glass on the door of the convenience store he was trying to enter and then handcuffed him, Haley contends, citing the autopsy report paid for by the Pellerin family. The Pellerin autopsy found no taser markings, but was ultimately inconclusive about whether tasers were used. State police declined to release to The Current the findings of the autopsy produced in their investigation.
Earlier Friday, Haley rebuked “two weeks of silence” from authorities involved in the Pellerin case. At a press conference called by the local NAACP chapter, Haley challenged elected officials to pressure state police, who are investigating the shooting, to release the body cam footage, security video from the gas station where Pellerin was shot and the 911 call that brought police to the scene.
“The longer they wait, the harder it’s going to be for each side to digest what the truth is,” Haley said at the Friday morning press conference, saying his efforts were neither “anti police” nor “pro social justice” but fixed doggedly on achieving transparency.
LPD turned the case over to Louisiana State Police. That’s standard procedure for shootings involving officers in Lafayette and other jurisdictions in the state. At the Friday morning press conference before the Pellerin family met with Guillory, NAACP representatives criticized the arrangement, saying it was being used to shield local law enforcement from transparency. NAACP reps further called for police reform and for the district attorney to prosecute the officers who shot Pellerin.
Guillory further promised to explore deeper improvements in LPD. Described by Haley as an agreement in principle, Guillory’s commitments set short, intermediate and long-term goals for repairing local law enforcement’s relationship with the Black community. Here, Haley again credited a new face for Guillory, whom he earlier criticized as a mayor of two cities, one white and one Black.
“The mayor we saw in that meeting was not a mayor of two cities, but a mayor of one city,” Haley said.
The gist: Mayor-President Josh Guillory, who waited days to express condolences to the family of the 31-year-old Black man killed in a spray of gunfire by Lafayette police officers on Aug. 21, will meet with the family Friday.
The gist: After months of resisting calls to do more to keep vulnerable families housed, the Guillory administration will carve out a small portion of coronavirus relief money for rent and utility assistance. LCG committed Tuesday to shift $100,000 out of emergency funds currently dedicated to its business relief program and repurpose another $300,000 in regular housing program money to rent relief.
Most of the money LCG put toward emergency rent assistance has come from shuffling around housing dollars it already manages. The $100,000 reallocation will be cut from the $850,000 federal coronavirus relief grant the Guillory administration and LEDA used to set up, over the objections of housing advocates, the Lafayette Business Recovery Program, which has come up short of its initial promise to help hundreds of small businesses. Another $300,000 would be allocated to rent and utility assistance from the Community Development Department’s regular housing program budget.
“It’s been difficult to get the funding to these businesses,” Community Development Director Hollis Conway told council members Tuesday night, reiterating that his staff is overtasked in administering the program.
Altogether, LCG has committed $660,000 to direct housing support, including $260,000 the administration offered up as a compromise to housing advocates earlier this year. Leigh Rachal, who heads the Acadiana Regional Coalition on Housing and Homelessness, says that money is only just now hitting the street, and it’s moving quickly.
Lafayette’s business grant program has struggled to get money into the hands of the businesses it was sold to help. Called the Lafayette Business Recovery Program, it combined the $850,000 in coronavirus relief funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a $200,000 matching grant from LEDA, which has managed the public-facing portal for applications. Approximately 1,000 businesses applied.
To date, 33 businesses have been approved for funding. Sixteen businesses qualified for the more restrictive HUD reimbursements managed by LCG, accounting for $119,000 in grants. Another 17 businesses were funded by LEDA’s funding pool, not burdened by federal red tape, totalling $118,000. Three more applications are pending approval for LEDA funds. Conway said another dozen or so applicants are in the pipeline on the LCG side. It has more than $600,000 remaining to spend.
Regulatory snags have slowed the program. Faced with onerous documentation requirements, the vast majority of applicants have washed out of the multi-tiered process. As of mid-August, the program had moved just $26,000 of the federal award. LEDA CEO Gregg Gothreaux forged ahead to quickly disburse the portion put up by his agency. LEDA’s dollars do not come up with the thorny restrictions that complicate the HUD-funded reimbursements.
“In the end, many businesses will get the help they need to continue operations through the BRP,” Gothreaux said in a statement announcing the latest awards this week. “We won’t have enough funds to help everyone, but we want to assist as many businesses as we can that were forced to close or limit operations due to government orders.”
Council members are pressing the administration to get things moving. City Councilwoman Nanette Cook and Parish Councilman Kevin Naquin both pushed for Conway to get the $100,000 out as soon as possible, angling for an emergency meeting if necessary.
“It failed to get the money out quickly; meanwhile, we’ve got people losing their homes,” Naquin told Conway.
HUD added more flexibility to the relief funds. But it’s unclear that substantially more businesses will benefit. Under new guidance issued in early August, up to 30% of the award can be spent to benefit workers earning above low to moderate incomes, and businesses that received other federal help can now qualify. A key selling point pushed hard by Mayor-President Josh Guillory, Gothreaux and others was the program would target businesses who had nowhere else to go. HUD’s updated guidance also set a long deadline to spend the money, giving LCG three years to spend at least 80% of its award and six years to spend all of it.
From the jump, housing advocates argued the HUD funds were better used for housing, given added flexibility included in the block grant program, a creature of the CARES Act, intended to get money into renters’ hands and avoid widespread homelessness. A wave of evictions, feared for months by housing advocates in the wake of rising unemployment, has yet to materialize. And this week, the federal government issued a sweeping moratorium on evictions through the end of the year. How that order works in practice is still unclear, and advocates call it a stay of execution — not a solution — on rising housing instability nationally.
“We haven’t seen the evictions, but we have seen people call for assistance. People are really struggling to make ends meet,” says Rachal.
The Buchanan garage is a dilapidated property on prime real estate Downtown that’s been condemned because of government neglect. While it’d be great to get it back into commerce, the economics of Mayor-President Guillory’s plan don’t add up and they risk the financial health of the courthouse and the jail.