Elizabeth Naquin and Matthew Eastin have cost their neighbors 6 million dollars since they decided to oppose what the people of the community clearly said they wanted last July 16th. That was the message of a clearly frustrated and angry Terry Huval and Dee Stanley at the news that the pair and their class-acton suit lawyers had filed an appeal of their recent loss in court.
There clearly comes a point when such expensive obstructionism becomes a real issue for the community and it may be that this press conference marks that point. The question that everyone wants to ask is, of course: Why? Why pursue a course that only costs your neighbors so much money in order to frustrate their clear desire? Nobody believes that this has much to do really with utility rates. LUS has never had high rates and is perfectly free to set whatever rates it wants to set in any case. Nobody really thinks that a lawsuit that challenges the rates has a prayer of succeeding. And nobody thinks that suing over rates in years past has any real relation to preventing LUS to sell revenue bonds to build a business that didn’t even exist when the utility rates in question were set.
History helps us understand at least part of the reason that Naquin and Eastin are doing this–they are tools of the incumbent providers. The original version of this lawsuit originated during the fiber referendum fight and was nearly a direct copy of a suit filed by BellSouth with the exception of trying to promote the idea that “in lieu of taxes” is somehow an unfair tax on the people. That little bit of propaganda went nowhere an nobody really noticed when a judge dismissed the lawsuit (see the timeline in today’s Advertiser). The attempts to delay the LUS project passed the Public Service Commission and for a time lawsuits to delay LUS were superfluous. Given that history we shouldn’t be surprised to notice that after months of not having a suit active the lawyers and Naquin and Eastin only showed back up at the exact moment when BellSouth and Cox needed a new lawsuit to counter Lafayette’s attempt to repeal the (un)Fair Competition Act. Lafayette caved at the threat by BellSouth to sue again and cut a deal to withdraw their repeal bills. BellSouth let its suit die. The Naquin and Eastin lawsuit didn’t get included in the final deal amid claims by BS that it didn’t sponsor this one and hints that maybe Cox did.
Eastin and Naquin have never shown any interest in the actual fiber issue as multiple stories attest; they have never shown up at any council meeting or LPUA meeting; they’ve never shown their face in public opposition. With that in mind it’s a little hard to take seriously the idea that they are self-motivated by anything that approaches idealism to oppose the voters of the city. As today’s stories make clear they are not trying to save the people of the city any money. If that was their purpose they’d demand that their lawyers not entangle the bond issue that is costing the community so much money–and delaying a project for which the people voted. No, it is simply impossible to believe that Naquin and Eastin are hoping to benefit the community.
So why? The remaining explanations are pretty clearly self-serving.
- They remain simply the tools of the incumbents. (Somebody has to be paying for these lawyers to keep four (count ’em!) lawsuits in different courts running. Who is paying for this? This 62 year old Elizabeth Naquin woman and Eastin? I have to doubt it.)
- They’re hoping for a big bucket of money and are willing to blackmail the community in the hopes that the city will fork over a pay-off to get the chance to go forward. (Ain’t gonna happen.)
- They actually think the lawsuit has a chance and that there would be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that they are willing to split with the lawyers. However, if the lawyers I’ve talked to are right there is really no chance of this. A win would only result in a long-term repayment in the form of a little bit of money rebated on each bill. There is no pot of money coming in any case. If their lawyers are telling them different they need to talk to other lawyers. Their own lawyers have undoubtedly made sure their cut is coming from somewhere.
There just aren’t all that many explanations for what is going on here as long as Eastin and Naquin are standing in the way of the bond issue. They’re costing the people of the community money and delaying a project the people voted for. It’s all pretty ugly.