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Angola employees given lucrative contract cutting grass at prison; legal expert calls it corruption at its finest

1 year 3 months 3 weeks ago Friday, February 24 2023 Feb 24, 2023 February 24, 2023 6:08 PM February 24, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

ANGOLA - State ethics laws are on the books to prevent the good ol' boy network in Louisiana, but it appears a clever workaround was found for two high-ranking employees at Angola earning $1,200 per-cut to cut a small section of grass at the prison.

Ken Pastorick, a spokesman for the Department of Corrections, called WBRZ within moments of the WBRZ Investigative Unit story airing Thursday evening. He was furious about what was exposed and claimed the story was a hit piece on the Department of Corrections, and that WBRZ has it out for the DOC. Pastorick spent about 30 minutes on the phone but could not disprove the facts of the story. 

The WBRZ Investigative Unit uncovered a warden and major at the facility were awarded a contract to cut grass at Angola. That happened in August, and the contract was issued by the State Office of Juvenile Justice. Four months after the contract was awarded, Louisiana business filings with the Secretary of State's Office show the employees who received the contract created a lawn company that bears the name on the contract.

The contract for grass-cutting was given to William Kaycee Rosso under the name Rosso Lawn Services. Rosso is a warden at Angola earning nearly $74,000 per year, according to state payroll records from 2021.

His brother, David Britt Rosso is a major earning nearly $70,000. Both men set up an LLC with the Louisiana Secretary of State back in December and are listed as the agents and officers of the company. Their addresses show they are living on Angola's property. It's a perk funded by taxpayers that is offered to some employees who work at the prison.

"We have an elaborate ethics law designed to prevent nepotism and abuse of office and corruption," LSU Law Professor Ken Levy said. "This certainly looks corrupt when state employees get the advantage on all of their competitors. It's not fair. It stinks."

State ethics laws say, "no elected official or public employee or member of such public servant's immediate family, or legal entity in which he has a controlling interest shall bid on or enter into any contract, subcontract, or other transaction that is under the supervision or jurisdiction of the public servant's agency."

"It seems very opportunist," Levy said. "Somehow they got notified there was a need for lawn cutting. They saw a lot of money. It's a lucrative contract, and that's fine if they are an independent lawn company, but these gentlemen are working for the state, Angola, and it's not fair. It's not right."

The contract was awarded to cut grass around the facility where some youth are being held. Levy said on it's surface it does not look legal even though the contract was not issued by their employer.

"I'm employed by the state, a professor at LSU," Levy said. "I can't tell LSU I want to do some catering. Can I do that? It will not be allowed. Nor would it be for my children or if I have a spouse. This is the same kind of situation."

WBRZ also reached out to OJJ about this. A spokesperson said they would get back to us, but we never heard back. WBRZ followed up on this Friday, and we never heard back.

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