Wednesday, November 01, 2017
JERRY CAMERON CAUGHT RED-HANDED WITH BOTH HAND$ IN HURRICANE MATTHEW COOKIE JAR: "Consultants $1.4 million, county $0 (SAR)
$142,295 for seven months’ work? That's what conman JERRY CAMERON, failed St. Johns County Commission candidate, Sheriff DAVID SHOAR's buddy, ex-Police Chief of Fernandina Beach and ex-Assistant County Administrator, was paid for his work with controversial ARDURRA GROUP, LLC.
The County has paid more than $1.4 million to Louisiana-based ARDURRA for work on FEMA reimbursements. FEMA has not yet reimbursed the County a single dollar, as County Commissioners noted last month and the Record reported on October 22. That same day, I requested that the State's Attorney and Inspector General investigate the County's ARDURA contract.
Under new ownership (GateHouse media), our newly revived St. Augustine Record reports conman CAMERON received "$142,295 for seven months’ work as a subject matter expert/government liaison for Constantine Engineering, a local firm aligned with Ardurra, which was hired in January to bolster the county’s recovery efforts following Hurricane Matthew."
Excellent article and good headline in the print edition.
My Open Records request No. 2017-595 revealed that St. Johns County performed no background investigation before hiring ARDURRA, and refused to say why.
I've also reported that ARDURRA appears to have obtained a federal trademark based on false or erroneous statements.
And I shared information about how CRAIG TAFFARO, Jr., former St. Bernard Parish President, filed a bogus lawsuit against other politicians, accusing them of defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress -- the suit was dismissed, but TAFFARO was obliged to pay $12,500 in his opponents' legal fees.
On May 1, 2017, I observed conman JERRY CAMERON entering the St. Johns County Administration Building and greeted him. Unfriendly, unctuous, uncouth conman CAMERON rudely refused to answer any of my questions about lobbying or to say what he was doing there.
Thanks to investigative reporter Jake Martin, now we know.
Yes, my fellow pilgrims, "it's crooked around here," as Brian told me in 1999.
Posted November 1, 2017 09:00 am
By JAKE MARTIN email@example.com
The St. Augustine Record
Consultants $1.4 million, county $0 -- As ex-county official assists firm at $191/hour, no FEMA funds have been distributed
(Large bannder print headline, above the fold)
Disaster recovery team includes former assistant St. Johns County administrator, at $191 an hour
Invoices provided by St. Johns County at The Record’s request last week indicate employees with Louisiana-based Ardurra Group and other associated companies made a total just north of $1.4 million between January and July for disaster recovery consulting services. This number includes labor and nearly $59,000 in recouped expenses such as air travel, car rentals, hotel rooms and supplies.
A tallying of the available invoices shows St. Johns County paid former assistant county administrator Jerry Cameron $142,295 for seven months’ work as a subject matter expert/government liaison for Constantine Engineering, a local firm aligned with Ardurra, which was hired in January to bolster the county’s recovery efforts following Hurricane Matthew.
In the meantime, well over a year after Matthew, the county has yet to receive any funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency through its Public Assistance program. As of close of business Tuesday, FEMA has obligated $0 to the county for last year’s storm.
County staff told commissioners at their Oct. 17 meeting that the county had already spent $23.1 million, mostly on debris removal and activation of emergency personnel for Matthew. The same presentation indicated the county spent $1.5 million — a little off the mark indicated by the invoices — for Ardurra’s assistance in recouping the county’s Matthew-related expenses for permanent work, debris removal, emergency activation, beach and/or dune restoration and inundated roads.
St. Johns County Commission asks who has link with state for Matthew recovery, consultant says ‘We would hope you did’
Road to reimbursement continues for St. Johns County more than a year after Matthew
According to backup materials attached to the invoices, Cameron participates in project meetings, non-FEMA applicant meetings and “general FEMA activities” and makes site visits. He is also responsible for program and project description development as well as data collection and dissemination, mostly for parks projects, piers projects, beach walkovers, boat ramps, dredging and the county’s constitutional offices.
Cameron was assistant county administrator for community services between 2005 and 2015 and was responsible for oversight of health and human services, library services, veteran services, recreation, breach services, animal control and fire services as well as emergency medical services and emergency operations.
He ran an expensive but unsuccessful campaign for the District 3 seat on the county commission in 2016, losing by 7 votes to Paul Waldron in the August primary – after a recount in September.
Information on qualifications and experience of personnel provided by the Ardurra-Constantine team in its Nov. 22 proposal to the county makes no mention of any familiarity on Cameron’s part with the FEMA reimbursement process. Still, Cameron’s $191 hourly rate makes him one of the highest valued members of the team. He’s worked anywhere between 45.5 and 135 hours a month.
For comparison, program manager Craig P. Taffaro with Ardurra makes $196 an hour and principals Rick Cloutier with Ardurra and Kart Vaith with Constantine make $205 an hour. Gabrielle Benigni, president of Ponte Vedra Beach-based Disaster Program and Operations, who is identified in the proposal as a debris assessment/management specialist, makes the same $191 rate as Cameron.
Taffaro, consistently working between 150 and 200 hours a month, made $250,978 between January and July, mostly for program management, project scope development, site visits, meetings and planning for efforts across the board.
In 2011, Taffaro, then president of St. Bernard Parish (where Ardurra happened to provide services after Hurricane Katrina), was the primary subject of a series of investigative articles by ProPublica on “spillionaires.” The general premise was some people cleaned up in more ways than one after the 2010 BP oil spill that resulted from the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
Taffaro, a psychotherapist turned politician who eventually came to be described as a southeast Louisiana powerbroker, was accused of handing out clean-up jobs based on favoritism rather than qualifications. He’s repeatedly denied the allegations.
For more on Taffaro and the county commission’s recent questioning of the consultant regarding St. Johns County’s recovery progress, see the Oct. 22 edition of The Record or go to http://bit.ly/2gQ9aOt.
The principals in charge, Cloutier and Vaith, have worked far less hours than Taffaro and other team members.
Ardurra’s Cloutier has made $30,340 in 148 hours over the seven-month span, mostly for project administration, project scope development and program management related to beach restoration and debris as well as other miscellaneous tasks. Constantine’s Vaith has made $52,223.75 in 255.25 hours, mostly data collection and dissemination for beach restoration and sand sourcing.
Benigni, with the same hourly rate as Cameron, has made $211,341.50, providing mostly project cost estimation and documentation as well as project cost reconciliations related to debris removal. She’s worked between just under 100 to nearly 200 hours a month.
The Record asked the county for any and all invoices available. There were no invoices from August, September or October provided.
County officials have said they expect expenses related to the county’s contract with the disaster recovery consultant will be eligible for reimbursement through the Public Assistance program. Eligible costs are typically covered 75 percent by FEMA, 12.5 percent by the state and 12.5 percent by a local match.
The latest task order provided by the county, dated Sept. 8, authorized Ardurra to provide disaster recovery consulting services in response to Hurricane Irma.