Company Tied to Federal Katrina Inquiry to Close

Wed December 10, 2014 - National Edition
Jeff Amy - Associated Press




JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A contractor tied to a utility under federal investigation for its spending after Hurricane Katrina is quitting business.

S. H. Anthony Construction Co. plans to auction its equipment on Dec. 18 in Gulfport, according to the website of auction house Alex Lyon & Son.

The website says owner Sean H. Anthony has decided to retire and that the auction of more than 50 trucks, excavators and bulldozers is a complete liquidation.

Anthony and his lawyer did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment Wednesday.

S. H. Anthony built and maintained sewer lines for the Harrison County Utility Authority until it was fired in March 2013. That move came after the Sun Herald newspaper reported that Anthony had bought a car and signed over the title to then-authority director Kamran Pahlavan. The two said Pahlavan was paying Anthony back. Pahlavan was fired in February 2013.

Authority board member Marlin Ladner said Wednesday that federal officials have subpoenaed records and talked to some staff at the authority about its spending. However, the status of that investigation is unclear.

“We haven’t heard a word from anybody in well over a year,” said authority lawyer Jim Simpson, who declined to discuss the specifics.

The U.S. Attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Pahlavan said Wednesday that he hasn’t had any contact with federal investigators.

An Associated Press investigation found the authority took private property and spent Hurricane Katrina recovery money on sewage plants that may not be needed for decades. More than $230 million in federal money was set aside for water and sewer projects in Harrison County, the most populous county on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

A federal report found Mississippi officials accepted unsupported population growth estimates in developing a plan to use $653 million in federal Hurricane Katrina recovery money for water and wastewater facilities, including some that may not be needed. The report also said a firm hired to help with population estimates initially estimated growth of 25 percent but increased it to 64 percent less than a month later at the contractor’s request, the report said.

S.H. Anthony continued to be the operational contractor for the authority for about six months after its contract was terminated, even though there were questions about the level of service it was providing. The company has remained a subcontractor building sewage lift stations for the authority into this year.