NEW ORLEANS – The city of New Orleans and other defendants in litigation brought by a company that lost its bid to develop the former World Trade Center dispute the contents of a white paper an attorney for the company provided to members of a state Senate committee.
C. Hayne Rainey, New Orleans Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu's press secretary, gave few details beyond the disputation.
"The city disputes many of the misleading and inaccurate mischaracterizations in this self-serving white paper, which was prepared by a lawyer for the losing bidder in an attempt to shift the focus away from yesterday’s Fourth Circuit ruling," Rainey said in an email to the Louisiana Record on April 21. "As this is a matter of ongoing litigation, we have no further comment. The ruling by the Fourth Circuit speaks for itself."
Rainey's statement referred to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal's decision last week in favor of the city of New Orleans, named defendants in a lawsuit filed by Two Canal Street Investors, losing bidders in the former World Trade Center development. The Fourth Circuit affirmed an earlier ruling by Orleans Civil District Judge Tiffany Chase, who denied Two Canal Street Investor's motion for a preliminary injunction to stop a Four Seasons development at the site from moving forward.
The white paper Rainey referred to was delivered to members of the Louisiana Senate Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works, considering Senate Bill 447. That bill passed the Senate in a near unanimous vote about two weeks after its introduction by state Sen. Conrad Appel (R-District 9) and now sits in the House.
The Davillier Law Group, the New Orleans firm representing Two Canal Street Investors, provided the Louisiana Record with a copy of that white paper.
The white paper detailed alleged and undisclosed conflicts of interest between the New Orlean's consultant and principals of the winning bidder in the World Trade Center Development, the Four Seasons-Carpenter-Woodward. In particular, the white paper claimed Stone Pigman and Jones Lang LaSalle, hired by the city to consider the bids, failed to disclose hundreds of millions of dollars of transactions with Four Season over the past five years.
The white paper also claims Landrieu was too cozy with a Woodward principal, Paul Flower.
"Mr. Flower has been a large donor to the Mayor and his campaigns, and has been appointed to numerous boards and commissions by the Mayor," the white paper said. "Woodward Design + Build, LLC, stands to make millions as the general contractor and architect for the project if this cut rate lease is permitted to stand. It doesn't hurt that Woodward Design + Build is a client of Sabiston Consultants, owned by Norma Jane Sabiston, a long time close friend and advisor to Mayor Landrieu and his sister, former U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu."
The white paper's accusations were disputed, point by point, by Greg Beuerman, a spokesman for the Carpenter-Woodward litigation team, in an email to the Louisiana Record.
For instance, Beuerman said that, despite the white paper's claims, LaSalle Hotel Properties has not been associated with Jones Lang LaSalle for almost 17 years, and Beacon Capital Partners is not an investor in Four Seasons New Orleans.
Beuerman also had plenty to say about the white paper's allegations about Landrieu.
"The allegations of favoritism by Mayor Landrieu to Paul Flower and Carpenter-Woodward are false," Beuerman said. "Paul Flower has not been appointed to any boards or commissions by the mayor. In fact, the award to the Four Seasons was based on a fully transparent and competitive selection process, and there is no evidence to suppose TCSI's scurrilous allegations."
Beuerman also alluded to some brow-raising details left out of the paper. For instance, Sabiston Consultants worked for a competitive bidder during the selection process and Two Canal Street Investors was late in complaining, Beuerman said.
"TCSI never complained about the process until the selection process was over, its partners all dropped out and Stuart Cornelius "Neil" Fisher bought the company for $10," Beuerman said.
This back and fourth between litigants over the former World Trade Center development is only the latest acrimony between the two sides to play out in public. Late last month, Two Canal Street Investors filed another suit in Orleans Civil District Court against members of the real estate consulting team who advised the city in that process. The named defendants in that case are the Stone Pigman law firm, attorneys Scott Whittaker and Angela Crowder, consulting firm Jones Lang Lasalle, and consultants Greg Hartmann and Judd Stensrud.
That case was in addition to Two Canal Street Investors' lawsuit filed last spring against the city and New Orleans Building Corp. That lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial on Oct. 24.
The development of New Orleans' 33-story World Trade Center, located on the riverfront, was leased last year to the development team led by Carpenter & Co. of Massachusetts and Woodward Interests of New Orleans.