- Associated Press - Saturday, December 5, 2015

MONROE, La. (AP) - A former contractor has won a $20 million suit he filed against the state Department of Transportation and Development over a 2007 incident he says cost him his business because he refused to pay a bribe to a state official.

The News-Start reports (http://tnsne.ws/1R1vO3H ) that a 12-person jury ruled unanimously in the former contractor’s favor late Friday.

The suit brought by Jeff Mercer was heard in 4th Judicial District Court by Judge Wilson Rambo.

Mercer said he filed the suit over actions that caused his business, which employed 20 to 40 people, to be shuttered.

Mercer’s attorney David Doughty, said the $20 million accounts for lost future income and is in line with the profits Mercer’s company was making at the time.

“It’s been a long fight, we’ve been trying to get them in the court for eight years,” Mercer said. “We finally got justice.”

“I think what this is all about is that people are tired of corruption and tired of reading of this type of thing, and I think the jury was sending a message: ‘Hey, We’re not going to tolerate this,’” Doughty said.

In the suit filed in 2007, Mercer said that Willis Jenkins, a DOTD inspector on a bridge project on Louisville Avenue in Monroe, “demanded a bribe.”

According to the suit, Jenkins told Mercer “if you want this job to go better, it’s going to take some green.” Mercer said he later demanded a generator as a bribe.

Doughty said Jenkins admitted he made the comment, but said it was a joke and the DOTD never investigated it.

In the suit, Mercer said he then reported the bribe to a DOTD engineer, Marshall Hill, who removed Jenkins from the project, saying, “this is not the first time he heard about this inspector.”

“As he went to other jobs, they continued to really punish him,” Doughty said, “It culminated in them actually reporting him to the FBI on some false criminal charges that wound up being dropped, but they didn’t check with him or his prime contractor or anybody. … Rather than paying him, they reported him to the FBI.”

After that, Doughty said, the Baton Rouge DOTD threatened him with federal prosecution when he asked for payments.

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Information from: The News-Star, http://www.thenewsstar.com

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