New Orleans Suspends Housing Group


New Orleans home rehab operation suspended

by Gordon Russell and Michelle Krupa, The Times-Picayune

Friday August 01, 2008, 9:34 PM

As a scandal centering on ties between the woman who ran a city-financed home-remediation program and the contractors who received money from it intensified this week, the agency’s board announced Friday it has suspended the program, perhaps permanently.

The move came after the FBI and the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development opened a probe into the agency, New Orleans Affordable Homeownership Corp. Those interviewed by federal agents include activist Karen Gadbois, who has been highlighting NOAH’s alleged misdeeds for weeks on her blog,

To see the list of 870 addresses at which NOAH officials claim their contractors did work — and the amount of money the agency billed the city for each job — click here.

For now, the probe appears to focus on two things: links between NOAH’s former director, Stacey Jackson, and the contractors who earned the most money under the program; and whether contractors — particularly those with links to Jackson — did the work at homes for which they were paid a total of about $1.8 million.

The program, designed to help poor and elderly residents repair dilapidated homes, was touted by Mayor Ray Nagin as a centerpiece of his 2007 budget. Slated as a $15 million initiative, he said the effort would help 5,000 homeowners.

In pitching the idea, Nagin said nonprofits providing gutting services had become overwhelmed. The city, he said, should pick up the slack.

The program has fallen far short of those goals, and the mayor has since attempted to distance himself from the program — though it emerged this week that his brother-in-law was one of NOAH’s highest-paid contractors. In addition, under its bylaws, NOAH’s board members all serve at the pleasure of the mayor.

That has helped keep him in the center of the controversy, along with a heated news conference at which Nagin blasted the reporting of WWL-TV’s Lee Zurik and accused him of hurting the city’s recovery.

Links to contractors

Records show Jackson, who quit the agency in June, has had business partnerships with the two highest-paid contractors: Hall & Hall Enterprises LLC, owned by Richard Hall Jr., and Parish-Dubuclet Services Inc., owned by Trellis Smith.

Hall’s firm was paid $347,342 by the program; Smith’s received $320,684.

Jackson and Smith are co-owners of a shop called “The Him Store” that specializes in men’s underwear. In addition, the Web site for Smith’s marketing firm, EC Media, this week listed Jackson as the firm’s “senior account executive.”

The posting has since been removed.

Jackson also formed a company with Hall in 1999 called TJH Inc. It’s not clear whether the partnership is still active. However, WWL-TV, which broke the news of Jackson’s various potential conflicts of interest this week, reported that Hall confirmed that he knows Jackson “very well.”

Hall also told the television station that he did not believe the work got him the job.

Hall, Smith and Jackson did not return numerous phone calls from The Times-Picayune.

Records also show that the property listed as the domicile for TJH Inc., at 1620 S. Salcedo St., had remediation work billed to the city agency.

That property is owned by Esperanza Young of Houston, according to the Orleans assessors’ Web site. Efforts to reach Young were unsuccessful. According to WWL-TV, Young said that Hall is her uncle.

Young told the station that the nonprofit group ACORN gutted and boarded her house. Documents released by Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration last week indicate that Myers and Sons Enterprises invoiced NOAH $5,120 for work at the same Salcedo address.

Also connected

Myers and Sons — the third-highest-paid contractor under NOAH’s gutting program, taking in $168,999 — also has links to Jackson.

A city-maintained search engine of building permits shows Myers and Sons took out a permit in 2005 for work at 1210-12 Burdette St. That home is owned by Jackson’s sister, Jamesha Turner, according to the assessors’ Web site.

Nancy Pelosi speaks out says no new oil


NY TImes rails against deportation of Illegals


Immigrants Deported, by U.S. Hospitals


Published: August 3, 2008
JOLOMCÚ, Guatemala — High in the hills of Guatemala, shut inside the one-room house where he spends day and night on a twin bed beneath a seriously outdated calendar, Luis Alberto Jiménez has no idea of the legal battle that swirls around him in the lowlands of Florida.
Josh Haner/The New York Times

Shooing away flies and beaming at the tiny, toothless elderly mother who is his sole caregiver, Mr. Jiménez, a knit cap pulled tightly on his head, remains cheerily oblivious that he has come to represent the collision of two deeply flawed American systems, immigration and health care.

Eight years ago, Mr. Jiménez, 35, an illegal immigrant working as a gardener in Stuart, Fla., suffered devastating injuries in a car crash with a drunken Floridian. A community hospital saved his life, twice, and, after failing to find a rehabilitation center willing to accept an uninsured patient, kept him as a ward for years at a cost of $1.5 million.

What happened next set the stage for a continuing legal battle with nationwide repercussions: Mr. Jiménez was deported — not by the federal government but by the hospital, Martin Memorial. After winning a state court order that would later be declared invalid, Martin Memorial leased an air ambulance for $30,000 and “forcibly returned him to his home country,” as one hospital administrator described it.

Since being hoisted in his wheelchair up a steep slope to his remote home, Mr. Jiménez, who sustained a severe traumatic brain injury, has received no medical care or medication — just Alka-Seltzer and prayer, his 72-year-old mother said. Over the last year, his condition has deteriorated with routine violent seizures, each characterized by a fall, protracted convulsions, a loud gurgling, the vomiting of blood and, finally, a collapse into unconsciousness.

“Every time, he loses a little more of himself,” his mother, Petrona Gervacio Gaspar, said in Kanjobal, the Indian dialect that she speaks with an otherworldly squeak.

Mr. Jiménez’s benchmark case exposes a little-known but apparently widespread practice. Many American hospitals are taking it upon themselves to repatriate seriously injured or ill immigrants because they cannot find nursing homes willing to accept them without insurance. Medicaid does not cover long-term care for illegal immigrants, or for newly arrived legal immigrants, creating a quandary for hospitals, which are obligated by federal regulation to arrange post-hospital care for patients who need it.

American immigration authorities play no role in these private repatriations, carried out by ambulance, air ambulance and commercial plane. Most hospitals say that they do not conduct cross-border transfers until patients are medically stable and that they arrange to deliver them into a physician’s care in their homeland. But the hospitals are operating in a void, without governmental assistance or oversight, leaving ample room for legal and ethical transgressions on both sides of the border.

Indeed, some advocates for immigrants see these repatriations as a kind of international patient dumping, with ambulances taking patients in the wrong direction, away from first-world hospitals to less-adequate care, if any.

“Repatriation is pretty much a death sentence in some of these cases,” said Dr. Steven Larson, an expert on migrant health and an emergency room physician at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “I’ve seen patients bundled onto the plane and out of the country, and once that person is out of sight, he’s out of mind.”