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COMMUNITY BASED CORRECTIONS, LLC
by BuffaloPundit

Late in the evening on December 8, 2004, the Erie County Legislature was about to pass the 2005 budget. At the last minute, Legislator Chuck Swanick approached Legislature Chairman George Holt, and whispered something to him. Swanick then held up Amendment E, which was ultimately passed as part of the budget.

Amendment E sets aside $3 million to pay a Louisiana company to monitor low-risk probationers.  As of this writing, it has not been repealed or otherwise invalidated. Here’s what it says:

The Holt-Moliere connection: What is that all about?

WHEREAS, Community Based Corrections, LLC (CDC) [sic] will provide case monitoring and case management services for certain categories of a low-risk target population of defendants, reporting and related services at an approximate savings to the County of $16,000,000 over the course of one year based upon the management of an average of 500 cases per day, at an approximate cost to the County of $3,000,000.

RESOLVED, that the County Executive is hereby authorized, subject to the approval of the County Legislature, to enter into a contract with Community Based Corrections, LLC for the purpose of instituting an alternative to incarceration program to reduce the cost of managing and supervising low-risk defendants and which will better serve the County’s economic interests.

RESOLVED, funding for this program will be covered by funds appropriated for the Erie County Probation Department, the Erie County Holding Center and the Erie County Correctional Facility.

What’s so bad about all that?

Firstly, according to Comptroller Nancy Naples, $16 million is equal to the County’s entire yearly prison budget. Secondly, $3 million dollars, taken from the Sheriff’s already squeezed budget, is a tremendous amount of money to spend on an outfit like Community Based Corrections, LLC.

BACKGROUND

According to the Louisiana Secretary of State, the primary member of the Community Based Corrections, LLC (CBC) is named Burnell Moliere.

Moliere is also the president of a janitorial company called AME, Inc., which is registered with the city of New Orleans as a “disadvantaged” business. “AME” stands for “A Minority Entity.”

A 2001 New Orleans Times-Picayune article reported that, in 1995, Moliere was a member of the board of a company called National Contractor Services, which obtained a $500,000 New Orleans city contract to help “disadvantaged” companies obtain loans and bonds.

National Contractor Services managed to secure $6.8 million in bonds and loans for “disadvantaged” companies in New Orleans; however, 25% of that money went to companies owned by Moliere and two other members of the National Contractor board. Through National Contractor, Moliere funneled over $300,000 in bonds to his own AME, Inc.

Although considered “disadvantaged,” Moliere was estimated in 1998 to earn about $500,000 per year and have an approximate net worth of $3.6 million. AME, Inc’s 2001 revenue exceeded $12 million.

AME, Inc. also secured a contract to perform services at New Orleans’ airport. Interestingly, it did not manage to secure “disadvantaged” status through the airport authority, and was required to share 35% of its work with registered disadvantaged businesses. Between 1990 and 1998, AME failed to meet the airport’s requirement. When confronted with that information, AME diverted 40% of its airport janitorial work to a former AME subsidiary.

In 1998, AME was outbid for the airport janitorial job by another non-disadvantaged firm. AME protested, and the other firm was inexplicably fired. After some court wrangling, AME now shares the airport job with the winning firm.

AME is not exactly renowned for its excellent janitorial services. Moliere donated money to a New Orleans school board member’s campaign because the schools superintendent was trying to terminate AME for poor service.

In 2000, the school district held a hearing to determine whether AME should be stripped of its $2.4 million school janitorial contract due to incompetence. Thirteen binders’ worth of principals’ complaints were submitted for consideration. Moliere personally defended the company, accusing the school system of unfairly targeting him.

Not surprisingly, Moliere is politically well-connected. He has close ties to New Orleans’ DA Eddie Jordan, for whom Moliere was campaign finance chairman, and is a big contributor to other local New Orleans-based politicians. Moliere was also part of a local investment group that unexpectedly obtained a contract to run New Orleans’ Harrah’s casino – a deal that was later subject to FBI scrutiny.

ABOUT CBC

Moliere’s CBC obtained its first monitoring contract in December 2004 with the City of New Orleans. The contract was awarded despite the fact that CBC had the least experience, and the highest price of all the competitive bidders.

At least New Orleans went through a competitive bidding charade.

When most people think of house arrest, they think of ankle bracelets and GPS satellite tracking. They think of Martha Stewart. But that’s not what CBC proposed to do.

According to CBC’s website, the monitoring they do is anything but “community based.” Instead, it’s done remotely, and it’s “voice based.”

Under CBC’s scheme, if a judge assigned an offender to house arrest, the offender would be required to telephone CBC to sign up for the service. According to information that has since been scrubbed from CBC’s website, the offender would pay a $70 “enrollment” fee, and the first month’s monitoring cost of $228.75!

The offender then gets a sort of debit card, which requires topping up when funds drop below $20.00.

What does CBC do for its $3,000,000 + $70 enrollment fee + $229/mo? It makes and receives telephone calls. That is it.

CBC will make random telephone calls to the offender’s home, work, etc. They use “voice recognition technology” to make sure it’s the offender with whom they’re speaking.

What sort of reporting do they do? I don’t know; as of this writing that web page remains “under construction.”

What do they do for emergency notification? Back in February the website didn’t say. Now, it appears that CBC will merely contact the responsible caseworker by page, phone, fax, or e-mail.

Any other questions? CBC’s Frequently Asked Questions page is “under construction.”

CBC is little more than a glorified answering service - an extremely costly answering service.

THE CONTRACT

It has been reported that Holt traveled to New Orleans for a fundraiser, and that Moliere twisted his friends’ arms to donate money to Holt. Holt claims to have returned any such donations.

Erie County Sheriff Patrick Gallivan claims that Holt presented the CBC proposal to him, but that he never had an opportunity to review it in detail. Obviously, Gallivan’s office would be most affected by the CBC deal.

Any such contract between the County and a private entity must be submitted for competitive bidding. CBC never competed in such a process. Indeed, the contract itself reads like a fait accompli.

The contract contains mandatory language; CBC “will provideThe County Executive is hereby authorizedto enter into a contract with CBCfunding for this program will be covered by funds” Nowhere is competitive bidding mentioned or alluded to.

THE REAL DEAL

Holt claims that the naming of CBC, and the wording of Amendment E was a mistake. Nonsense. Holt is a long-time legislator and should know by now how to craft a properly-worded, legal bill. If he doesnt, then there is more than enough staff – legal and otherwise – to go around in that chamber. His claim that its just a mistake seems disingenuous.

CBC was named for a very particular reason.

That reason has to do with $3 million, which Gallivan claims was diverted from his budget to pay for the CBC deal. That amounts to nothing more than a giveaway of $3 million to an untested, inexperienced answering service with strong political connections and deep pockets for contributions.

Moliere wined, dined, and played Holt like a cheap date. What was Holt thinking, traveling almost 2,000 miles for a fundraiser – for him – a small-potatoes county legislator?

Having been seduced, Holt did Molieres bidding. He illegally inserted a no-bid contract at the 11th hour. There was no time for the legislature to scrutinize that deal. What was the big hurry?

As its stands now, the FBI is investigating those issues.

The author used information from wnymedia.net, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and the Buffalo News for this story.

 
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