June 18, 2009
One Chouest yard barred from building dry dock for another
The Port of Terrebonne, Louisiana, will be paying more for a floating dry dock that will be used by the new Chouest LaShip shipyard in Houma. The low bidder to construct the dry dock was another Chouest shipyard, North American Shipbuilding. It put in a bid of $19.5 million. Gulf Island Fabrication of Houma bid $26.6 million and Bollinger Shipyards of Lockport bid $32 million.
However the Louisiana Board of Ethics has reached a draft decision that awarding the bid to North American Shipbuilding would be unethical.
The Ethics Board said that LaShip is a "public servant" because of the terms of its agreement with the port. And the state code of ethics prohibits a public servant's immediate family or a legal entity in which the immediate family member owns an interest in excess of 25% from bidding on or entering into a contract, subcontract, or other transaction under the supervision or jurisdiction of the public servant's agency.
LaShip LLC and North American Shipbuilding LLC are separate legal entities. However, according to information provided to the Ethics Board by the port, Gary Chouest and Carolyn Chouest are the sole owners of North American Shipbuilding. Dino Chouest, Dionne Chouest, Damon Chouest, Ross Chouest, the Kobe Chouest Trust and the Joshua Chouest Trust are the owners of LaShip. Gary Chouest and Carolyn Chouest are the parents of Dino, Dionne, Damon and Ross Chouest.
"Since North American Shipbuilding, LLC is owned by the parents of the owners of LaShip, LLC, North American Shipbuilding, LLC is prohibited from entering into a construction contract with the Terrebonne Port Commission for the construction of the dry dock pursuant to the Dry Dock Lease by and between the Port and LaShip, LLC," the Ethics Board determined.
In light of the Ethics Board finding, the Port of Terrebonne has voted to reject the North American Shipbuilding bid for the dry dock,
A factor in the decision was that the dry dock is part of a project that is being aided by $9 million in state funds and the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has said that no state funds will be made available for any project "wherein there exists a negative opinion of the Louisiana Board of Ethics."