Lewis Lucke: US official in charge of relief efforts after earthquake went on to consult privately for US contractor.SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The U.S. official who was in charge of relief efforts following Haiti's devastating Jan. 12 earthquake has accused a major contractor of shortchanging him for his assistance in securing more than $20 million in reconstruction deals after he left his post.
Lewis Lucke, the former U.S. special coordinator for relief and reconstruction, says the Haiti Recovery Group Ltd., did not pay him enough for consulting services that included hooking the contractor up with powerful people and helping to navigate government bureaucracy. He's owed nearly $500,000, according to a lawsuit he filed last month in his home state of Texas, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press.
Lucke's lawsuit names the Haiti Recovery Group's two partners: Ashbritt, Inc., a contractor based in Pompano Beach, Florida, that specializes in the removal of debris left by natural disasters; and the GB Group, a conglomerate run by one of Haiti's wealthiest men, Gilbert Bigio.
The Reporter talks to Richard Chacon, Executive Director of Office of Immigrants and Refugees (ORI). Chacon was appointed to oversee the state’s response to last year’s catastrophic earthquake in Haiti. He also covered Haiti and took several trips there as the Boston Globe Latin America correspondent from 1997-2001.
BHR: Walk me through the year in services [provided by the state] to the Haitian community, especially displaced Haitians.
Richard Chacon: There have been a variety of services provided for folks here and in rebuilding efforts in Haiti. Immediately following the earthquake, Governor Patrick made it a priority to have a swift plan to address needs for Massachusetts’ residents. He appointed our agency, Office of Refugee and Immigrants to oversee these efforts, which was unprecedented for an agency like ours. Our primary responsibility was to deal with special refugee cases and work with other agencies to provide emergency resources. It was a new role for us.
We worked with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) because of their experience [in these circumstances]. We were able to develop an inventory of personnel and equipment to help out with immediate needs - if we were asked to send any. We communicated to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) what we had available here in the state.
Since the January 12th earthquake, Haiti has seen a surge in volunteers from around the world. Their presence could not have come at a more critical time when morale has been low and the country faces a future of uncertainty. Many have made the trip to offer themselves as helpers in the cause. They have documented their experiences to share what they encountered and learned in the relief and rebuilding efforts. Each of the following individuals provides a unique voice, speaking alongside the people of Ayiti.
Haitian Americans and their supporters can play a vital role in helping perhaps 600,000 Haitians and Haitian Americans in Haiti and the United States by urging Massachusetts’ U.S. Senators Brown and Kerry to get the White House to instruct Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano to end a glaring double standard which dishonors our community. Let us explain.
Our January edition: Now on newsstands across Greater Boston“Art is Haiti’s own ambassador – it can make its own path,” says Edwidge Danticat, who recently talked to the Reporter about her most recent works, Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work and Haiti Noir. The former is a collection of essays compiled over the years and completed as part of Toni Morrison’s Society Lecture Series. Haiti Noir is an anthology of stories Danticat edited for the acclaimed Akashic Noir Series. This compilation of dark tales illuminates the complexities and nuances of Haiti and her people. The literary adventure opens with the eerily ominous Odette, a harrowing tale set during the earthquake, written by Boston-based poet Patrick Sylvain.
BHR: When did you first start working on Create Dangerously?
Edwidge Danticat: About two years ago I was invited to do the Toni Morrison Society lecture series. I was only the second invitee, Cornel West was the first – no pressure there. When you’re doing these types of things, it’s good to find something you’re passionate about. If you share your passion, then you can share something meaningful. So I picked “the immigrant artist” as my subject. And part of the series is to publish a book. I’ve been writing these essays for years, although some of them were new.
BHR: In the middle of telling each story you stop to share your thoughts and insights. Is this part of your responsibility as an immigrant artist?
ED: I was trying to interpret my own sense of it – the way I interpret my own path. It’s nearly impossible for me to come from the place I come from - to pretend that I’m just writing. It’s a lot. When you’re writing an essay you hope to interpret your own journey. Happily taking the responsibility and duty to share and tell personal, intimate stories. The artist’s responsibility is to try to represent as truthfully and as carefully what that individual knows (to be true).
In an interview with the Boston Haitian Reporter a day before he was sworn into his second term, Gov. Deval Patrick reiterated his campaign pledge to help come up with a comprehensive dwelling strategy for Haitians displaced by last January’s earthquake. Patrick also discussed the state’s involvement in relief efforts and whether he plans to visit Haiti.
Patrick told the Reporter he is charging his undersecretary of housing, Tina Brooks, with the task of coming up with a housing strategy. Brooks will also be charged with engaging with the Haitian community on the strategy.
“Government can’t do it alone,” he said. “We’re going to have to partner, and partner creatively with folks on the ground, in community groups and who are individual neighborhood leaders.”
“Art is Haiti’s own ambassador – it can make its own path,” says Edwidge Danticat, who recently talked to the Reporter about her most recent works, Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work and Haiti Noir. The former is a collection of essays compiled over the years and completed as part of Toni Morrison’s Society Lecture Series. Haiti Noir is an anthology of stories Danticat edited for the acclaimed Akashic Noir Series. This compilation of dark tales illuminates the complexities and nuances of Haiti and her people.
President Obama issued a statement on the anniversary of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake in which he said "we continue to be inspired by the Haitian people, and our vibrant Haitian American community, who have faced unimaginable loss with extraordinary courage and faith."
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – International observers are waiting on Haiti's president to accept a report suggesting his party's candidate be eliminated from a contentious election to choose the quake-ravaged country's next leader.
Haitian electoral officials must make the final decision on what to do, and the recommendations by observers from the Organization of American States could weigh heavily.
But first they have to officially receive the report.
That step was thwarted Monday when President Rene Preval's office declined to grant an appointment to the observation team, OAS assistant secretary-general Albert Ramdin said.