Port Commission may sue Harvey, Bay Star

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 10, 1998

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / June 10, 1998

LAPLACE – “They came to do a witch hunt,” Marvin Harvey of Bay Star Enterprises said Monday, referring to the South Louisiana Port Commission’s desire to audit his company, which managed the port’s Globalplex facility until January.

“It’s not a witch hunt,” responded Gary LaGrange, executive director of the Port of South Louisiana.

Meanwhile, a South Louisiana Port Commission committee acted Monday night to recommend hiring Baton Rouge attorney Stephen M. Irving and thelaw firm of Kean-Miller to complete an audit and possibly sue Harvey and Bay Star. The full commission is expected to act on the recommendationtonight.

“It’s a fairly simple, straightforward case,” Irving told the committee. “Ithink you have a lawsuit you can win.”Asked about a guess as to his total fee, Irving commented, “It depends on how the fish squirms after he’s been harpooned.”The committee includes port commissioners Brent Tregre, Cart Davis, Brandt Dufrene and, absent from the meeting, Gregory Lier.

The Port Commission is moving ahead with its case against Bay Star after Harvey refused to cooperate with an audit being conducted by the Baton Rouge firm Apple-Ellis, Inc., which was hired by the Port Commission lastAugust when commissioners learned an audit of Bay Star had not been done since the company took over management of Globalplex in May 1995.

Harvey and his firm were dismissed in January by the Port Commission.

Since then, Deputy Director Don Hays has assumed daily administrative duties.

In January, Lier said Harvey failed to comply with requests by Ellis-Apple for certain documents necessary for the audit. Ellis-Apple soon ceased itsefforts after being stymied by Harvey, according to port attorney Joe Accardo.

The accounting firm, described by LaGrange as specializing in suspected fraud cases, is a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and has worked with arson and fraud investigations, financial analysis, tracing of assets and cash-flow sensitivity studies, according to the company’s resume.

Ellis-Apple’s audit attempt ended in January when Harvey was reportedly uncooperative with the firm. The company was paid $25,000 for its effort.However, the company has since distanced itself from the current investigation, according to Port Commissioner Brent Tregre.

“They just wanted out,” he said.

Louisiana Inspector General Bill Lynch’s office got involved on the heels of the unsuccessful audit and has been conducting an investigation of Bay Star’s operation of Globalplex.

At the same time, LaGrange confirmed, detectives from Louisiana State Police Troop B, which Harvey said conducted a “raid” on his offices last fall seeking financial records, is conducting its own criminal investigation.

Lynch’s investigators completed a draft report, which was submitted to port officials for their response. Lynch refused to release a copy of thereport to the media prior to receiving responses and preparing a final report.

“We will review all responses. We give everyone an opportunity to havetheir say,” Lynch added.

LaGrange said one of the first steps taken by Ellis-Apple was to depose retired port director Richard Clements in Florida. Harvey said theinvestigators returned with a 102-page document of allegations, mostly against Harvey himself.

“They didn’t audit my books for three years,” Harvey noted, and added that since his company was contracted Port Commission president Brandt Dufrene overstepped his bounds by hiring the auditors.

“The executive director was supposed to audit me,” Harvey said.

Harvey claims Ellis-Apple made repeated demands for more and more personal documents, which he was reluctant to release.

“They kept on and on about what Clements said. They don’t want to let itgo. and for what reasons, I don’t know,” he said.LaGrange responded, “We have an obligation to do what needs to be done.”

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