Republican state Rep. David Wallace of Leachville, a current candidate for state Senate, has been identified as the owner of a company that rounded up a group of workers, apparently undocumented aliens, for flood relief work in Louisiana, including one with a poor driving record who was at the wheel in a fatal bus crash on Interstate 10.
Two were killed, including a local fire chief, and 41 injured in the crash.
WRS, an Arkansas company registered to three men — including Eddie Schmidt, the elected Ward 4 constable for St. Tammany Parish; and David Wallace, a state legislator from Leachville, Ark. — had a man round up potential workers. Wallace told The New Orleans Advocate that WRS hired a bus to take the work crew to a commercial job site in the Baton Rouge, La., area.
The driver of the bus, Denis Yasmir Amaya Rodriguez, 37, of Honduras, had been doing work for the man and construction jobs in the past year for Schmidt’s company. It’s unclear why Amaya ended up driving the bus rather than the bus company, Kristina’s Transportation, providing a driver.
Amaya had been stopped for various moving violations at least five times in the past four years, always without a driver’s license, The Advocate reported. The state police cited him Aug. 5 for driving without a license on I-10 in Metairie, La.
Wallace was asked about the status of the workers on the bus.
Wallace told The Advocate he didn’t know that Amaya and the 24 others on the bus, which WRS was planning to hire, were illegal immigrants. He said his company would not have hired them if they were not able to provide proper documentation of their legal status
Wallace is the incorporator in Arkansas of Wallace Resource Systems, a labor supplier identified as a disabled veteran company. The designation enables it to qualify for federal contracts set aside for disadvantaged contractors. It specializes in disaster work. Wallace has loaned his campaign against incumbent Democratic Sen. David Burnett $117,000 so far and indicates he’s prepared to spend more. The corporate entity involved in Louisiana is apparently Wallace, Rush, Schmidt, whose main players are Wallace, Schmidt and Howard Rush of Denver.
Wallace told the New Orleans Advocate that his company has 300 workers in Louisiana on cleanup contracts. He insisted no one goes to work for him without producing proper documents.
UPDATE: Wallace has stopped talking, deferring questions to a Louisiana lawyer who takes pains to say a “headhunter” rounded up the workers, not Wallace’s company, and that the bus company, not Wallace’s company, hired the unlicensed driver.