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LCG launched an infrastructure boom; Josh Guillory and his wife launched an equipment company – The Current

Side Hustle: This is the first in a two-part investigation into the mayor-president’s attempts to earn additional income while in office.

In July 2021, Mayor-President Josh Guillory rolled out a big spending plan with his upcoming budget. Flush with $86 million in federal coronavirus relief and record local tax revenues, he proposed a massive capital plan that would churn millions of cubic yards of dirt, combining a historic influx of federal, state and local cash.

A month later, he and his wife formed an equipment supply company, later removing their names from its public filings.

The firm, WM&N Supplies and Machinery, is little more than a website, a phone number and a closet-sized office with a single employee. It has no equipment, and no longer any apparent public connection to Josh and Jamie Guillory.

It’s also not the only venture associated with the Guillorys. Since taking office in 2020, the mayor-president has been eager to add income to his public salary of $122,000. He took heat for incorporating a family law practice the month after he was elected and quickly shuttered it. Since then, he’s earned at least $15,800 teaching as an adjunct professor at UL.

While not illegal on its face, the firm’s creation, timed as LCG fuels a local construction boom, creates a minefield of potential conflicts. State ethics laws prohibit public servants from doing business with companies that have or are seeking work from the agencies they represent.

A public servant or his company that he owns more than 25 percent of, or exercises control of, cannot do work for someone that has a contractual business or financial relationship with his agency [in this case LCG].

Louisiana Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen

Why a couple with no background in construction — Josh is a lawyer and Jamie a counselor — would get into this kind of business and whether WM&N has generated any income for the couple are questions the Guillorys would not address for this story.

Both the Guillorys and other administration officials did not respond to questions, including whether WM&N Supplies and Machinery has business with Rigid Constructors, the Lafayette-based contractor that has taken in at least $47 million from LCG since November 2021.

‘Research & Development’

Backhoes, bulldozers, excavators, generators, light towers, track loaders and trailers are among the equipment listed for lease on WM&N’s website, which was registered in August.

As of now, however, the company has no equipment or yard to keep it in, according to the firm’s lone employee: the office manager for its workspace at Saloom One office park on Asma Boulevard.

The Guillorys’ company has a small office on Asma Boulevard in the Saloom office park. Its lone employee says it’s still in R&D and doesn’t actually do any business.

A year since incorporating, WM&N isn’t really operating, according to the employee. “We don’t own any equipment. We actually don’t own anything,” she says. “We’re in the research and development stages of the company,” she adds, saying she is the person who has been doing R&D since January.

Messages for Jamie Guillory left with the office manager as far back as late June and on Jamie’s cell phone (which rolls over to a voice greeting from WM&N) were not returned. “She said she doesn’t do interviews,” the employee says.

Josh Guillory did not respond to an emailed list of questions seeking comment for this story. An LCG spokesperson says the company is not a government matter. The mayor-president left for rehab late last month but is said to be nevertheless “available” to perform his duties.

For months, LCG officials have refused to answer the City Council’s questions about drainage projects and have told this publication they have no documents responsive to requests for subcontractors working on LCG projects.

WM&N’s website, decorated with stock images of construction equipment, explains how the name of the company is an acronym derived from the first names of three WWII vets related to both Josh and Jamie. The address listed in state records for the business is a residence owned by Jamie Guillory’s father, according to tax assessor records.

WM&N's website
WM&N’s website, decorated with stock images of construction equipment, explains how the name of the company is an acronym derived from the first names of three WWII vets related to both Josh and Jamie.

While there’s now little public trace of the Guillorys’ connection to the firm, they have not always shielded their involvement. A source close to the couple’s thinking tells The Current it was formed as a way for Jamie to make money, and Jamie is known to have discussed the company casually.

The M-P’s wife told at least one council member about her new venture.

“Last year Jamie mentioned in passing to me that she had started an oilfield equipment rental company,” says Parish Councilman Josh Carlson. (WM&N’s website indicates that it caters to the construction industry, not the oilfield.)

While neither Jamie’s nor Josh’s name is listed on WM&N’s website, both initially appeared on August records with the Louisiana secretary of state, Jamie as registered agent and member/manager and Josh as member.

And the phone number on the site was once used for both Josh’s failed Congressional campaign (including Rudy Guiliani’s robocall in support of Guillory) and Jamie’s counseling practice, according to online records.

The couple removed Josh’s name from state records a month after incorporating. And on Dec. 6, a week before LCG sent out a Request for Qualifications for the $76 million Bayou Vermilion Flood Control project, they filed to delete Jamie’s name, state records show. Their roles as members of the LLC were replaced with Jacques Pitre, Josh’s cousin who is now the only person publicly associated with the company.

Pitre and Josh Guillory also started another company last year called JEP LLC.

The RFQ, which called for $30 million of work to be completed by midnight on June 30, drew responses from only two potential contractors, The Lemoine Company and Rigid Constructors, the firm LCG would come to lean on heavily for its blitz of drainage work.

The pace and push on the project has raised eyebrows among state facilities staff, according to email records.

Aerial of Homewood detention pond
The nearly 400-acre Homewood Detention Pond project was shut down by a district judge May 4, after ruling LCG’s land grab was unlawful.

“Looks like they’ve really been moving some excavated material,” state project manager Lyle Savant wrote after viewing progress photos of the Homewood ponds in early April, according to email records.

“This operation is like no other I have seen in my 38 years of engineering,” replied LCG engineer Fred Trahan. “Not sure if this contractor can boil water, but he sure can dig dirt.”

Anxious to get started

LCG was in a hurry to spend a windfall of cash, before it was even in hand. In June 2021, LCG reps probed state officials for ways to get moving on Bayou Vermilion Flood Control, according to email records obtained from the Louisiana Division of Administration.

“Our mayor is being told we might get quite a bit of money this year,” LCG engineer Jessica Cornay wrote to state officials in June, asking whether state capital dollars could fund real estate purchases or could be used on projects built on expropriated land.

On Aug. 16, state officials emailed CAO Cydra Wingerter to kick off talks on a CEA with the state for the project ultimately awarded to Rigid. By September, the mayor-president was “very anxious” to get started, according to emails sent to the Office of Facilities, Planning and Control, the state agency that oversees projects funded by state capital dollars.

WM&N was officially incorporated on Aug. 19.

Josh Guillory’s aggressive approach to Lafayette Parish’s drainage problems would eventually land LCG in legal hot water. LCG expropriated 370 acres of land near Milton to build the Homewood portion of Bayou Vermilion Flood Control, a seizure later ruled unlawful by a district court. (Appeals are still pending.) Homewood and the controversial spoil banks project, also the subject of litigation, share a common thread: haste, big money and Rigid Constructors, the contracting firm helmed by Cody Fortier that has netted nearly $54 million in LCG work this year, mostly from Bayou Vermilion Flood Control.

This operation is like no other I have seen in my 38 years of engineering. Not sure if this contractor can boil water, but he sure can dig dirt.

LCG engineer Fred Trahan to the state’s project manager

Fortier’s firm is far and away the largest beneficiary of LCG’s infrastructure bonanza and the only major contractor on record to receive payments by wire transfer. Bayou Vermilion Flood Control alone will earn his company $75 million to build two of the largest detention ponds in the state at a breakneck speed. Rigid was awarded the BVFC project just weeks after Fortier donated $10,000 to Guillory’s campaign via four of his 40 known companies.

The administration’s lack of transparency in what has grown to be a three-year, $100 million drainage infrastructure plan led the City Council in early June to issue a wide-ranging list of questions that center on Rigid’s role; Guillory, who announced on July 25 that he was entering an inpatient rehab program for alcohol abuse and untreated PTSD, has refused to answer the council’s questions.

None of the questions so far are explicitly related to the Guillorys’ new heavy equipment company; in Josh Guillory’s absence, the councils tried to muster support for appointing an interim mayor-president amid a heated debate over what constitutes the M-P’s “availability.”

The scope of the inquiry, however, which includes documentation of Rigid’s subcontractors on LCG projects, could probe the involvement of a firm like WM&N. Rigid’s Fortier did not respond to a text message seeking comment.

“Since the questions have been put out there [on June 7]there’s been more information regarding [the Guillory] companies,” says City Council Chair Nanette Cook. “The next step for me is to find out a few more details of what that means and how that relates to any of our LCG projects.”

I do not know of any connection between Rigid and Jamie’s company, but I believe the Guillorys would be more than willing to answer any questions to bring clarity to the matter.

Lafayette Parish Councilman Josh Carlson

Cook and City Council Vice Chairman Glenn Lazard, a lawyer, have a meeting scheduled Wednesday afternoon with an independent auditing firm to get the answers they have waited more than two months for. Both say they hope to have more information after the meeting.

State ethics law prohibits companies owned by public officials from doing business with companies that have contracts with their public agencies or are pursuing them.

“A public servant or his company that he owns more than 25 percent of, or exercises control of, cannot do work for someone that has a contractual business or financial relationship with his agency [in this case LCG],” says Louisiana Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen. That prohibition concerns any work, public or private.

The state’s ethics code also includes an abuse of office provision, again a civil matter, that would prevent Josh or Jamie from using their position to compel anyone to do business with WM&N.

For the time being, WM&N has no work to speak of, claims its lone employee. This week, she confirmed that Jamie Guillory is her boss. It’s impossible to know how the company pays her, its rent and utilities and other expenses if it’s not generating any revenue. A clearer and more recent picture of the Guillorys’ finances won’t be available until later this year. The MP requested an extension on the couple’s 2021 personal financial disclosures until Oct. 15.

In the interim, Parish Councilman Carlson says he’s confident the Guillorys will eventually answer questions about WM&N.

“I do not know of any connection between Rigid and Jamie’s company, but I believe the Guillorys would be more than willing to answer any questions to bring clarity to the matter,” Carlson says.

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