Times-Picayune, The (New Orleans, LA) - Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Author: Martha Carr Staff writer
The third time’s the charm, as the saying goes.
That’s certainly the case with the well-connected trio of Jimmie Woods, Ray Valdes and Burnell Moliere, who for the past two years have been working to craft a new business venture.
It took members of the group, who have formed at least three separate corporations, awhile to land a deal.
But in late December, Community Based Corrections finally inked its first contract, with Mayor Ray Nagin’s administration to provide home monitoring for offenders found guilty in Municipal Court. Although the value of the contract depends on how many offenders are ordered to enroll, the one-year agreement has a cap of $3 million and can be renewed for up to five more years.
Valdes and Woods began their hunt for new public contracts in January 2003, when they incorporated a company called Educational Websites of America. The pair tried to persuade the Jefferson Parish public school system to sell advertisements on the district’s Web site. Under the proposal, the school system could keep 20 percent of the profits, with the remaining 80 percent going to the company.
The idea was quickly dashed by Superintendent Diane Roussel after she sought an opinion from the state attorney general’s office that suggested that by allowing ads on its Web site, the School Board could be creating a public forum. That would make it trickier for the board to restrict advertising on the site, possibly opening up the system to adult advertisements and other inappropriate messages.
So the pair moved on.
Valdes and Woods formed a second company, Nolada LLC, in April 2003, and this time included Moliere’s daughter, Shelley Rainey.
They approached Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan with the same idea that flunked with the Jefferson Parish school system, and they got as far as posting a district attorney’s Web site and selling a few ads.
But when the Web site became public in late January 2004, controversy engulfed Jordan, and the company dismantled the site a few days later.
A state attorney general’s opinion supported the venture in some respects, saying as long as the site was not the official Web site of the district attorney’s office, the owners could decide which ads to post. But the opinion also said there could be legal problems for Jordan if the Web site accepted ads from criminal defense attorneys or if he had to prosecute any of the advertisers.
The group said they hoped to gross $2 million in ad revenue per year, which would have meant $1.6 million in revenue for the company, or a whopping 80 percent piece of the pie.
Meanwhile, Valdes and Woods were already pursing a third venture. This time, with Moliere at the helm, the group had become exclusive agents for a Covington company called ShadowTrack Technologies, a voice-based home-incarceration tracking system. In February 2004, just days after nolada.com hit the skids, the group made a pitch at an en banc meeting of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court judges. They had been escorted there by their attorney, Marlin Gusman, who at the time was a New Orleans city councilman. Gusman has since been elected criminal sheriff.
Then last March, Nagin issued a request for proposals for an expansive, government-financed home incarceration system for suitable cases in Municipal and Magistrate courts. Community Based Corrections , despite being the most expensive and lowest-rated bidder, was selected by the mayor for the Municipal Court job, on the condition that the company bring down its prices.
The company did and is now fully engaged in the contract, which started Jan. 1.
Moliere said CBC is actively seeking contracts in other cities and states. He also indicated that he is still interested in working in Erie County, N.Y., despite controversy there about the company’s no-bid contract.
"We are proposing to several state and city governments," Moliere said. "I also plan to attend the National Conference of Black Mayors conference in April of this year in Columbus, Ohio, to further market CBC’s services."