A side discussion between attorneys today led today to a commitment by 84 Lumber to avoid certain activities in Louisiana and self-report its contracts to the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors rather than potentially getting its license revoked by the state. The deal marks a milestone in a years-old controversy involving 84's role in federal contracts to rebuild two schools and a fire station following Hurricane Katrina.
84 has been called to the Licensing Board hearing today in Baton Rouge regarding an alleged violation over bonding insurance coverage. In August 2013, ProSales first chronicled the controversy that led to this hearing with its story "84's Antagonists," in which Louisiana contractor Addie Mills (pictured here) claimed 84 Lumber’s installed sales division did poor work, managed badly, and bullied her when she joined with 84 on the schools projects.Today's hearing didn't touch on those allegations. By the time it was over, according to the Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper, Mills and
Maurice Hurst, owner of The Olympic Group in Metairie, were complaining that "84 Lumber got a slap on the wrist."
“They don’t get nothing. I got three years’ probation because the bond they supplied me was bogus,” the newspaper quoted Hurst as saying. “And the fact that they didn’t do the work got me thrown off the job.”
Murphy Foster, an attorney in Baton Rouge and general counsel to the board, told ProSales in an interview that, following a discussion during a recess between him and 84’s attorney, a resolution was reached.
“84 Lumber has agreed not to assist upstream contractors and subcontractors in obtaining performance or payment bonds in the future in Louisiana," Murphy said. "They agreed to a self-reporting and monitoring of their contracts for the next year by the board.”
[On Aug. 21, Mark Frilot, a Louisiana attorney representing 84, wrote to ProSales to declare the following. “84 Lumber denies all allegations of wrongdoing or Licensing Law violations. The Board refrained from making any determinations until after resolution of pending formal dispute proceedings.”]
It was not immediately known whether 84 assists in obtaining performance or payment bonds in Louisiana any more. Its website lists three facilities in Louisiana plus three more in Mississippi that potentially could service Louisiana customers.
The Advocate quoted Murphy as saying he had intended to ask the Licensing Board to revoke 84's license and said one board member asked 84 to voluntarily suspend its work in the state for a year.