ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - The City of Gonzales has decided to move ahead with a lawsuit to try to recover tax dollars from Flambeau Fest organizers and the media company behind the event, PI Entertainment.
The decision comes amid a series of investigative reports into the nearly two-year-old concert by WAFB’s Scottie Hunter.
Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux tells WAFB festival organizers contracted city police officers to direct traffic for the 2017 event, then skipped out on the bill. The nearly $3,000 for the 66 hours of overtime worked by officers ended up being covered by taxpayers after coming out of the department’s budget.
According to a contract obtained by the 9News Investigators in early April, concert organizers requested 66 hours of services through the Gonzales law enforcement agency. The total came out to $2,970 and despite several attempts to collect, Mayor Arceneaux tells WAFB the city still has not been 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 Fest 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.
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.
“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.”
Jackson told WAFB he would not like to get involved with Flambeau Fest or its organizers in the future unless they first pay up.
“If it were up to me, they couldn't come back until they make things right," Jackson added.
City leaders came forward with the claims after the 9News Investigators uncovered allegations from a hotel manager in Ascension Parish that concert organizers skipped out on a bill of more than $32,000 from the inaugural event. An untold amount of ticket holders are also upset with the festival, alleging promoters have failed to make good on refunds or deliver a follow-up show.
The concert, its organizers, and PI Entertainment are also facing a separate lawsuit by one of the lenders from the 2017 event, J.B. Interests, for more than $1.7 million.
According to court records, organizers are expected to be in court for that case on Monday, June 24.