The company that the city-parish government pays to spray for mosquitoes allegedly falsified information about outreach work called for under the public contract, according to documents obtained from city-parish government.
Mosquito Control Contractors Inc., a New Iberia-based firm that has had the spraying contract in Lafayette Parish since 2002, has fired the employee responsible for public education programs and repaid city-parish government $37,524, according to the documents.
City-parish government has scaled back the roughly $1.1 million annual contract pending a criminal investigation.
“Undoubtedly, there were some things that happened that were basically fraud,” City-Parish President Joey Durel said Wednesday. “There is an investigation going on. We will get to the bottom of it.”
The issues came to light during an audit to verify public outreach efforts, such as presentations and literature on the health concerns of mosquito bites and what can be done to prevent them.
A letter sent by City-Parish Attorney Michael Hebert to MCCI last month stated that random spot checks were made to verify public outreach during the last six months of 2014.
“Thus far, every location that has been contacted has either denied that MCCI has conducted a presentation or dropped off literature there or has no record or recollection of such presentation or literature,” Hebert wrote.
City-parish government found that no presentations had been given at seven schools and day care centers reported by MCCI and that no literature had been dropped off at nine businesses listed as receiving mosquito control pamphlets.
In one instance, MCCI reported dropping off literature at a business address that does not exist, according to a summary of the contract audit.
MCCI owner Glenn Stokes said the dispute involves a small part of the Lafayette contract and has no connection with the company’s core responsibility of spraying for mosquitoes.
Stokes said he believes few of the public outreach efforts are in question and that MCCI still met all the outreach requirements under the contract, even if the outreach efforts in dispute are not counted.
Stokes said he fired the public outreach employee, who has not been named, within two hours of learning of the discrepancies and has stepped up public outreach efforts since the situation was brought to his attention.
“The problem has been remedied, and it was remedied immediately,” he said.
According to correspondence from MCCI’s attorney to city-parish government, the company’s internal investigation has been made difficult because the former employee “refused to give all documents and information back to the company despite repeated requests” and that the police had to be called “to obtain possession of the company’s computer from that employee.”
The letter also states that Stokes’ son has been removed from his position helping oversee the Lafayette contract and “pending further investigation may be terminated.”
His son, Glenn Stokes Jr., is barred from any work associated with Lafayette’s contract under a series of contract amendments negotiated with city-parish government late last month after the questions arose about public outreach.
The recent amendments also scale back portions of the contract, ending payments for public outreach, for work to improve drainage to eliminate mosquito habitat and for use of an ATV.
Durel said there was talk of possibly trying to terminate the contract, but it would be difficult to find a new company with the height of mosquito season approaching.
“That’s the quagmire we are in,” he said.
Durel said the amended contract will be kept in place pending the completion of the criminal investigation and could be revisited in the near future.
Follow Richard Burgess on Twitter, @rbb100.