GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - The fallout over Flambeau Fest continues as yet another accuser has come forward, adding to the avalanche of debt the nearly 2-year-old concert has allegedly left in its wake. According to Gonzales city leaders, the latest unpaid balance had to be taken care of by the city’s police budget, which ultimately means it cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.
According to a contract obtained by the 9News Investigators between Gonzales and PI Entertainment, concert organizers requested 66 hours of services through the Gonzales law enforcement agency. The contracted work included officers directing traffic to and from the Lamar Dixon Expo Center for the 2017 event. The total came out to $2,970 and despite several attempts to collect, Mayor Barney Arceneaux tells WAFB the city still has not gotten paid.
“Since that time, we’ve not received anything, and in between that, we’ve had our attorney send a letter and the people would respond to us early on and say, 'Standby, we’re going to pay you,’ Arceneaux said. "We had hopes that we would get that, but as of this time, we’ve not received a thing.”
PI Entertainment owner, Mark Miller, and the Flambeau team were set to go before a judge Monday, April 8 in Baton Rouge district court over the $1.7 million lawsuit filed by lenders that WAFB recently uncovered. The case was continued though, which means it will be delayed for at least the next few weeks. WAFB started digging more into the PI Entertainment team and found even more concerning accusations against the company’s leadership.
According to a report on the Credit Union National Association online publication, PI Entertainment’s co-founder, David Addison, was slapped with a lawsuit in Texas back in 2012. A formal federal complaint was filed against Addison from his time as president and CEO of Texans Credit Union from 2003 to 2009. The complaint accused him of “gross negligence” and also claimed he involved the company’s funds in high risk and unstable business investments.
The Credit Union National Association article can be viewed here.
Court records reveal the case against Addison was settled without him admitting fault, but the National Credit Union Administration Board handed down a cease and desist order and issued a federal lifetime ban, ordering that he never work for or be involved in any leadership role with a federally insured credit union. The settlement was signed on August 21, 2014. According to Addison’s LinkedIn account, that was just five months before he and Miller joined forces at PI Entertainment with the goal of bringing country music to south Louisiana.
The cease and desist order issued to Addison can be viewed here.
“It’s going to put a question mark on everybody’s mind, I would believe,” said Arceneaux.
With everything WAFB has brought to light about Flambeau Fest in recent weeks and the almost daily accusations against the PI Entertainment, Arceneaux says he’s now concerned about the future of the concert, but he does want the event to succeed.
“It’s bringing great entertainment to Ascension Parish, which we were all for,” Arceneaux added. “I think everybody here was wanting to work together on that and make it successful, but on the same token, if you’re going to hire folks, we have to pay them.”
Gonzales Police Chief Sherman Jackson calls the nearly $3,000 hole left in his budget unacceptable. The officers who signed up to work the concert still got the overtime pay they were promised, but those checks came from Gonzales taxpayers, not the group who expected to make money from bringing the concert to Ascension Parish.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Jackson what his response was to the situation now that it has gone on for nearly two years.
"Well, first of all, I think it's ridiculous for us to be facing this situation," Jackson responded. "We held on to our side of our responsibility and provided those services and the taxpayers shouldn't be responsible for that. It should be Flambeau Festival."
As promoters continue to promise fans they will deliver on a future show, both the top-elected official in Gonzales and the city’s top cop say they will not get involved unless those behind Flambeau Fest pay up.
"If it were up to me, they couldn't come back until they make things right," Jackson said.
"We want to do business with them, but let's see a check first," Arceneaux added.
While the mayor says they have not yet filed a lawsuit, a letter from the city’s attorney, dated April 3, 2018, warned organizers they had seven days to cut a check or face legal action. The city put those plans on hold, but now Arceneaux says since WAFB’s Scottie Hunter has filed several investigative reports on the festival, they could be moving forward with that lawsuit soon after he consults with the city’s attorney and council members.
"Since your story came out, it was something for us to revisit and we shall do that," said Arceneaux.
With an untold amount of unpaid refunds, an active million dollar lawsuit and even more taxpayer money tied up in the festival, the police chief in Gonzales believes it’s past time the Attorney General’s Office, or someone, step in to investigate.
"It should be looked at from all angles," Jackson added.
WAFB reached out to the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office to see if they plan to launch a criminal investigation into the company. A spokesman for the office responded with a statement, which reads:
“All I can say is that the prosecutors and staff of AG Landry’s office watch the news like everyone else. If Louisiana law is being broken and we are in a position to do something about it, I expect we would.”
The spokesman also released a more general statement, not related to Flambeau Fest, to warn consumers about the potential risk of fraud connected to music festivals in the state. That statement reads:
“Louisiana is a potential target for event-related scams due to its popularity as a tourist destination. Through social media and websites, companies and con artists can easily advertise events that are poorly planned or that they do not intend to host. Consumers should research entities that advertise online before purchasing their tickets online. Be sure to utilize consumer reports, check out scam trackers, and use caution with first-time events requiring tickets be purchased in advance.”