The public doesn't normally get a look at emails like these emails we dug up that reveal a company pushing for a no-bid contract -- emails in which a public official asks for a company to sponsor a dinner. One government watchdog says it could be public corruption playing out right before your eyes, in black and white.
“It’s more of a horror movie, from Louisiana's point of view,” says Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
This isn't a movie, but a real life story that started in June of 2009 -- a series of emails sent from Robert Isakson, managing director of the DRC Group, a Mobile, Alabama-based disaster recovery company that's made tens of millions of Louisiana tax dollars since Katrina. Isakson wrote
about an upcoming trip to the National Sheriff's Association convention in Fort Lauderdale. He wrote
that Plaquemines Parish "Sheriff Jiff Hingle and we are hosting a formal dinner for about 30 or so sheriffs on Monday night at the nicest steak house in Fort Lauderdale."Here's the invitation
to the event -- Hingle cordially inviting people to Grill 66, the event sponsored by DRC. By the end of July, 34 people had RSVPed they would attend Hingle's event, paid for with DRC's money.
Two weeks later, DRC and Isakson hosted another dinner
at the Louisiana Sheriff's Convention in Destin.
“If that was intended to influence the sheriff to continue to give him business, or to facilitate future contracts to that vendor, I think you may be approaching the criminal line with that,” says Goyeneche.
At the same time Isakson and DRC lined up those events, Isakson sent Hingle and his driver, Major Brandon Mouriz a separate email
, this one coming on August 1, about Jails On Demand, a portable holding cell DRC wanted the sheriff to lease. The email
says, if Hingle leased portable jails from DRC, Isakson's attorneys said Hingle would "have no obligation to follow the public bid law."
So in the same week Isakson hosted Hingle's dinner, he tried to convince Hingle to hire his company.
But there's more.
Months later, in April of 2010, we found another email
. Two days after the BP well blew up, Isakson received an email from his Louisiana regional manager, Kristy Fuentes, who wrote
that Brandon Mouriz – again, Hingle's driver and major in his department – “called today to see if we would sponsor a dinner in Destin during the La. Sheriff’s Convention. Jiff is being inducted as president." An hour later, the head of DRC, Robert Isakson responded, "Absolutely, let’s do this supper and anything else we can do to assist him in this honor."Here's a copy
of the invitation to the dinner -- again sponsored by DRC -- and h