LAPA President: Rev. Freddie
Louisiana Auctioneer Q & A
February 25, 2013
(Updated on March 14, 2013)
LAPA President Rev. Freddie Phillips
Q 1: What is the status of the "I's here" Inspector General investigation?
A 1: Rev.
Phillips: "First, there was the
Advocate article published on December 22, 2012. That was followed by
a letter from the Inspector General's Office to Gov. Jindal dated February 20, 2013. That was followed
by a follow-up Advocate article published on March 9, 2013. Only time will tell what may transpire next."
Did Ken Buhler appear before the LALB for a hearing on
March 5, 2013?
"Yes. Because Chairman Steinkamp indicated a need to recuse herself,
failed to have a quorum. Consequently the hearing was continued until May 7, 2013 or a
mutually-agreed upon time between the complainant and Mr. Buhler before then."
Weren't you an LALB Member when Mr. Buhler's license
was reinstated in late 2010? Wasn't there a lady there who appealed to
the LALB for Mr. Buhler NOT to be reinstated?
"Yes and yes. In fact, I sent
certified letters to my fellow Board Members outlining many of Mr. Buhler's
problems. The lady who spoke to the Board is Ms. Linda Williams, and she relayed her experience near the end of her 91-year-old
mother's life. Here is the audio of Ms. Williams' statements regarding her experience with Ken Buhler. Note that, at the 7:12
mark of the audio, Ms. Williams says, 'If you do give him his license back, each one of you is to blame if, several years from now,
the same thing occurs.' Also, this Advocate article was published outlining my strong opposition to Mr. Buhler's license being
reinstated (and was based on the certified letters at the link above). I was the sole dissenting vote regarding reinstating Mr.
Buhler's license. Videos of Mr. Buhler's last LALB license reinstatement are available at this link. I would also point out that,
at the January 23, 2012 LALB meeting, the LALB went into Executive Session to consider Buhler's 2012 renewal. Once the
LALB exited Executive Session, the vote was 4-2 in favor of renewing his 2012 license, so there must have been some reservation
about him holding a license at the outset of 2012."
Where did the auctioneer resources (LALB financials,
videos, etc.) link go on LAPA's website?
A 4: Rev. Phillips: "LAPA's focus is now consumer protection; however, there's a small auctioneers link at the lower left of the
home page for LALB videos, financials, etc."
Is there a reason that the LALB's website does not have a
link for LAPA?
"I brought that issue up at the January 8, 2013 LALB meeting and again at
the March 5, 2013 meeting.
Legal counsel Larry Bankston stated that the Board could pick and choose which organizations it chose to place links for
on its website, and the Board voted unanimously not to place LAPA's website link on its website. I'll have more to say
regarding this matter in coming days."
Legal counsel Larry Bankston? Did the LALB hire
a second attorney and, if so, when?
A 6: Rev. Phillips: "Yes. The LALB hired Mr. Bankston on May 21, 2012. The 2:07 - 3:30 segment of this video entails an
interesting exchange between LALB Members regarding Mr. Bankston's hiring.
Oh, you mean like, at the 3:03 mark, where Board Member Lamar Little expressed "reservations"
about Mr. Bankston's
"baggage?" Do you know to what he was referring?
"Yes. Mr. Bankston is a
He served 33 months of a 41-month Federal prison sentence and paid
a $20,000 fine for accepting a bribe while serving as a Louisiana State Senator. He was disbarred by the Louisiana Supreme
Court, which cited a 'lack of remorse' on his part for his crime and took exception to Mr. Bankston characterizing the bribe
as a 'gift.' See 'convicted felon' link above for more details."
Given what Mr. Little relayed, why did Member Darlene
Jacobs-Levy, at the 3:11 mark, defend Mr. Bankston so strongly,
even relaying "......Mr. Bankston has never been censured by any court that I'm aware of...." Isn't she an attorney?
Rev. Phillips: "Ms. Jacobs-Levy is an
attorney with 43 years of legal experience in Louisiana. Only she can
answer why she
made the quote she did. Either she didn't know (a mere assumption), or she made a known falsehood statement to the
LALB which clearly heavily influenced Mr. Bankston's hiring. Either way, Ms. Jacobs-Levy comes across as either
uninformed (best case) or deceptive (worst case)."
Q 9: Is it true Mr. Little resigned soon after that meeting and, if so, do you know if his resignation was over the Bankston hiring?
Rev. Phillips: "Mr. Little did
resign, but I do not know his reason(s) for resigning. In addition to opposing
Bankston's hiring, Mr. Little also vigorously opposed the LALB purchasing a building
as evidenced by the 5:20 - 5:40 mark of this video. Mr. Little performed his LALB duties admirably during his near
two-year tenure, and he backed his statements and beliefs with sound arguments."
Q 10: Do you know how much Mr. Bankston has charged the LALB since he was hired last May?
A 10: Rev. Phillips: "Yes. Through 12/31/12, that figure is $9,737.95."
Q 11: The itemized billings of Mr. Bankston are 100%
redacted and Ms. Dow's are near-100%-redacted. Can they do that?
How is public scrutiny even possible under these circumstances?
"Both Mr. Bankston's
$7,689.90 general-services invoices and his
$2,048.05 for Burns v. LALB (open meetings
violation) invoices are 100% redacted. While Mr. Bankston's redacting may be justifiable in Burns v. LALB or in the case of
ONGOING investigations, I question any redacting beyond that point and view it as an obstruction of public scrutiny.
I therefore requested that LAPA Vice President Robert Burns alert the LA Attorney General's Office of LAPA's intent to
seek invoices with SUBSTANTIALLY less redacting from both attorneys on Wednesday, February 27, 2013. We made the
request, and we obtained invoices with far less redacting. We will soon replace the present detailed billings
of Mr. Bankston and of Ms. Dow with more informative invoices."
Has there been any formal hearing at the LALB regarding the whole New Orleans
Auction Gallery (NOAG) fiasco and a
delving into why LALB Chairman Steinkamp refrained from alerting the LALB about all the problems transpiring at NOAG
prior to its bankruptcy filing of April 1, 2011?
A 12: Rev.
As most recipients of this email are aware, LAPA chronicled the entire NOAG
fiasco on this webpage:
LALB Corruption Train: Tessa Steinkamp Style. The key question is: 'Did Ms. Steinkamp have knowledge of all these
problems?' In answering that question, we first have the fact that, despite LALB Attorney Anna Dow sending an email
to Sarah Olcott-Allen, who headed Boards and Commissions at the time, that Ms. Steinkamp 'didn't even work at NOAG,'
we have the undeniable fact that Ms. Steinkamp
was identified at the bottom of page two on this link as the Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and a Director of NOAG
up until March 20, 2011 (12 days before bankruptcy). Next, we have the actions of Mr. Billy Rau, owner of Rau Antiques
in New Orleans. Mr. Rau was a NOAG creditor owed $1.25 million at the time of bankruptcy. According to NOAG
attorney Stewart Peck, Mr. Rau was routinely present at NOAG and acting as sort of a de facto CEO while Jean Vidos
was in the hospital. Mr. Peck alleges that Mr. Rau directed NOAG staff regarding which bills to pay, etc. in order to
'keep this place afloat.' Is it reasonable to assume Ms. Steinkamp never observed Mr. Rau making such directives
(or that the directives weren't made directly to her) with such desperate statements as 'keep this place afloat' and Ms.
Steinkamp had no knowledge of the dire straits of NOAG? Is it reasonable to make such an assumption notwithstanding
her position as Treasurer? Finally, we have the fact that court filings show LALB Chairman Tessa Steinkamp was
neck-deep in making false assurances about when checks would be sent out prior to bankruptcy. Despite all this
evidence that Ms. Steinkamp had integral knowledge of the problems at NOAG, she NEVER alerted the LALB to any of
the problems. Further, those problems were often long-term in nature, such as a
lawsuit filed in January of 2010 by Massoud Pouratian, who alleges to have been victimized for $114,000
when he bid by phone from California for paintings purported to be authentic from famous artists but, upon arrival to
Mr. Pouratian, were assessed almost immediately as fakes, and which were purported to have
CHRISTIE'S REJECTION STICKERS on them (see previous link, which is a declaration of David Berke, attorney for
Mr. Pouratian, which was filed into the NOAG bankruptcy case on 10/01/12). At the 4/1/11 bankruptcy filing, NOAG
was paying company expenses out of consignor escrowed funds; furthermore, over 50 consignors were owed approximately
$600,000 with almost no funds available whatsoever to pay those consignors. So it appears pretty safe to assume Ms.
Steinkamp had very integral knowledge of all of the problems at NOAG, yet she never saw fit to alert the LALB to
any of these problems, and the LALB seems to have no qualms about her failure to do so. Without question, the LALB
(and attorney Anna Dow for that matter) certainly appears to be 'going to the proverbial wall' to 'protect one of its
own'!!! To further evidence just how far against the wall the LALB is willing to go to protect its Chairman, Tessa
Steinkamp, feel free to view this video of Ms. Steinkamp threatening my license for even attempting to address the matter.
Finally, given that I was summoned for a full-blown hearing (at an approximate cost to the LALB of $600) regarding
an alleged routine $50 ad violation (for which I was exonerated), it sure seems like the LALB has a propensity to 'choke
on gnats and swallow elephants.'"
Q 13: Speaking
of failing to report auction infractions, is it true that recently an LALB
Member said that he wasn't going
to report an "auctioneer" operating with no license?
A 13: Rev.
Phillips: "Yes, Board Member Hal McMillin, at the November 5,
2012 LALB meeting, did indicate that he
has no plans to report someone conducting charity auctions and whom he knows to be 'getting paid under the
table.' As evidenced by this audio, Mr. McMillin's blatant violation of his LALB oath is justified, at least in his
mind, because he 'doesn't want this to come back to me.'"
Sherrie Wilks post January
8, 2013 LALB Meeting video, can you briefly relay what she referenced
regarding "theft of LALB funds."
A 14: Rev.
Phillips: "Yes. Ms.
Wilks alleges that former LALB Consumer Member Ray Camp and former LALB Chairman
'Buster' Gay presented fraudulent travel vouchers for an extended period, with the aggregate alleged theft of funds approximating
$5,000. Ms. Wilks reported all of her concerns to both Governor Jindal's Office and the Inspector General's Office. Board Member
Ray Camp resigned immediately upon Ms. Wilks' reporting of the alleged infractions. The Governor's Office 'demoted' Chairman
Gay to a mere LALB member and stripped him of his Chairmanship. Mere months thereafter, many auctioneers may recall Mr.
Gay, in his capacity as LAA President, urged that all auctioneers attending the 2009 LAA Convention sign a petition to have
Ms. Wilks fired. The petition was located at a table with Larry Nobles (now deceased). LAPA Vice President Robert Burns and
I were both in attendance at that 2009 LAA convention and, combined with the LAA's overwhelming vote in 2010 to openly
advocate shill bidding, with us viewing both episodes as UNPROFESSIONAL, Mr. Burns and I severed all ties with the LAA.
Soon thereafter, I proposed a separate trade group, and Mr. Burns and I began laying the groundwork for the eventual formation
of the Louisiana Association of PROFESSIONAL Auctioneers (LAPA)." I might also add that, when I attempted to introduce
an LALB 'travel voucher irregularity' policy to keep this type of fraud from recurring,
as evidenced by this video of March 21, 2011, my efforts were thwarted. Undeterred, I tried again at the July 18, 2011 LALB
meeting, only to, as evidenced by this video, encounter 'run around' from by colleagues."
Q 15: Has LAPA's efforts for a license fee waiver died?
A 15: Rev.
the fact that the LALB has accumulated
$245,000 in cash on hand (approximately FOUR YEARS of
operating funds), and despite the fact that a license fee waiver would only cost around $35,000 a year (by statute, out-of-state
licensees cannot be granted a waiver), the LALB has steadfastly refused to consider the proposal. Meanwhile, the LALB seems to
have no qualms about spending $300/hour for TWO attorneys now attending all LALB meetings, $17,000 over five years for a
Boardroom which it doesn't even use and, as referenced above, is now actively considering actually purchasing a building! I want
all Louisiana auctioneers to know that I will continue to press the merits of LAPA's fee waiver proposal to the LALB and will keep
licensees informed on whether the LALB ever budges on its stand."
Q 16: Has LAPA Vice President Robert Burns permanently given up his auctioneer's license, or is this just a "temporary stunt?"
A 16: Rev.
Phillips: "Mr. Burns has ceased
Louisiana licensed auctioneer and will serve only as a CONSUMER
as Vice President of LAPA. I, on the other hand, have renewed my auction license, and I will continue to advocate for Louisiana
auctioneers. As to whether Mr. Burns is engaging in any 'temporary stunt,' I have asked him to address that issue directly, and
his statement follows: 'There is ZERO chance that I will EVER hold an auction license in the state of Louisiana again. I very
much enjoyed being an auctioneer and will work diligently to help ensure consumers aren't victimized by auctioneers as my way
of showing appreciation to the vocation which I enjoyed the most during my professional career.'"
Q 17: Speaking of Mr. Burns not renewing, is it true that many other auctioneers did not renew in 2013 either?
A 17: Rev.
that license renewals are $10,000 less than budgeted (and even further below
the pace of 2012), that does
indeed appear to be the case. I am personally aware of quite a few auctioneers (including another LAPA member) who opted
not to renew and, like Mr. Burns, they've ALL indicated to me that their decisions are permanent."
Q 18: When do you plan to make a wide-scale introductory public announcement of LAPA to the general public?
Rev. Phillips: "There are MANY site improvements going on
'behind the scenes' which will benefit
consumers. Although the date
is not etched in stone, our current target date for making an email blast announcement to Auction Sells Fast's former email list of
approximately 3,000 recipients as well as mailing postcards to Auction Sells Fast's former mailing list is TENTATIVELY scheduled
to transpire on Wednesday, June 24, 2013."
Is the LALB in a state of disarray?
A 19: Rev. Phillips: "Each individual can make that determination for himself or herself."
Q 20: Are there plans to conduct another electronic town hall meeting in the near future?
"Yes, Thursday, May 2, 2013 @
7:00 p.m. "
To return to LAPA's Index Page of Auctioneer Issues Discussions by the LALB, CLICK HERE