St. Charles Herald-Guide

Destrehan engineer pleads guilty to bribery

By Kyle Barnett - January 12, 2013

A Destrehan engineer who recently pled guilty to bribing former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has connections to the St. Charles Parish School Board.

Rodney Williams, former president of engineering firm Three Fold Consultants, pled guilty to giving more than $72,000 in bribes to Nagin in exchange for no-bid engineering contracts with the city.

Shortly after being indicted, Williams stepped down as president of Three Fold Consultants.

Williamsí former company also secured no-bid engineering contracts with the St. Charles Parish School Board in recent years. Three Fold is currently overseeing engineering on the R.J. Vial school expansion project and is currently accepting bid requests for the project.

School officials said under state law the submission of bids are not required for contracts with firms such as Three Fold. School Board president Al Suffrin said the firm was one of many the School Board uses when planning construction projects.

"There are several firms that we use and we do it on a rotating basis," Suffrin said.

According to School Board Member John Smith, all engineering firms working with the school district are vetted by school officials.

"Those firms are scrutinized by our staff," Smith said. "When the board begins projects (school officials) make a recommendation to us to use the firm."

Engineering firms working with the School Board oversee construction projects, including bid specifications, and receive payment based on a percentage of the overall work done on the project.

School officials said since there is no work currently being sought by the school district that would necessitate the hiring of an engineer, it was not altogether clear whether Three Fold would remain one of the School Boardís chosen engineering firms.

However, Suffrin said since Williams has stepped down from the firm he does not see any reason why they would discontinue the relationship.

"Why should the company be penalized if he is no longer attached to the company?" Suffrin said. "It just seems that after he left the company it would be unfair to penalize the company."

Suffrin said the School Board has not had any talks on canceling the current contract with Three Fold that is believed to have been negotiated under Williamsí leadership.

"We have not had any discussion on the publicity that came out of that or canceling contracts," Suffrin said. "Legally, I do not know if that would be a basis to cancel contracts."

Smith said it would be up to the discretion of Superintendent Rodney Lafon to stop using the firm.

"Any recommendation regarding that would have to come from the superintendentís office," Smith said. "Whether or not they will continue to use that firm would be up to the superintendent."

Williams is the second head of an engineering firm to plead guilty to bribery who handles construction projects for the St. Charles Parish School Board.

In Nov. 2010, Destrehan-based engineer Ray A. Davezac pled guilty to bribing St. John the Baptist Parish President Bill Hubbard.

Davezac was sentenced to serve six months in prison for helping buy a car for Hubbardís mistress.

Williams has yet to undergo sentencing for the crime.

Destrehan engineer pleads guilty to bribery