Lee Zurik Investigation: Mineral Board approves more time for AG's "Dirty Deeds" probe

Updated: Apr. 10, 2013 at 10:00 PM CDT
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The State Mineral Board voted Wednesday to give the state attorney general's office four more months to investigate questionably obtained oil leases from the 1930's.

The leases were laid out in a series of FOX 8 investigations called "Dirty Deeds."

Nearly one year has passed since the Mineral Board ordered the attorney general to investigate those leases.

"When are we going to file suit?" asked independent researcher Keith Cressionnie during a recent Mineral Board hearing.  "We're going to go another four months, then go another four months… it will be 2030 before we get to court."

Cressionnie has spent three decades looking into the scheme, brokered by three former governors including Huey Long, and which has allowed descendants to be paid hundreds of millions of dollars.  They still collect money to this day from State of Louisiana leases.

"Mr. Cressionnie has noted that he has spent 30 years researching this," Assistant Attorney General Ryan Seidemann told the board.  "The request made by this board was just over a year ago I believe. So we've had a year.  And I would respectfully request that the additional four months at a minimum be granted, because a year is much less than 30 years.  And I think we're entitled to, if there is a case here, make sure that that case is rock solid before we make public announcements about it or move forward with it."

Cressionnie says a year should be enough time.  But the Mineral Board agreed to give the AG's office four additional months.

Seidemann told the board, "It is a very old issue, which means it's got a lot of history.  And it is convoluted and complex.  So untangling this in some manner such that it will make sense, and analyzing the legal issues involved... we just need more time."

Last year, we reported that a local attorney, Mike Stagg, offered to work on the case for the AG's office.  Attorney General Buddy Caldwell had a meeting scheduled with Stagg last summer, but cancelled it at the last minute.

When Tom Arnold raised that issue with Seidemann, the latter replied, "There's been a hint of outside council offered.  But let me be clear about this… I work with some of the best attorneys in this state.  We're more than capable of handling this issue.  Including myself, I have five attorneys working on the issue now, a research assistant and student worker gathering information.  We do not need outside council."

Ryan Seidemann of the AG's office says the help isn't needed because they are making progress, figuring out whether the State of Louisiana has any way to recover royalties and cancel leases that date back nearly eight decades.

Seidemann said, "We've made great progress.  We've got 50 pages' worth of a report written.  A lot of issues have been analyzed, but there are still outstanding questions that have to be addressed for this is complete."

The attorney general now must report back to the Mineral Board at the September 11 meeting.