A state agency has decided to wait at least one more day before it decides whether to take over $2.9 million in federal Homeland Security money designated for East Baton Rouge Parish, said the agency’s director Wednesday.
A takeover could jeopardize about $4 million in unspent homeland security funding over four fiscal years.
Pat Santos, interim director of director of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security Preparedness, or GOHSEP said that his office received about 300 pages of documents Wednesday afternoon from the city-parish. The documents were new reimbursement requests and project applications, he said.
“Our staff right now is going through them,” Santos said. “We’ll make a determination tomorrow if these documents provide enough evidence that they have complied.”
One option the office is considering is taking over the grants and handing them to a third party to administer, Santos said.
“We don’t want to penalize the people of the parish,” Santos said.
Also, at issue is whether the state will reimburse all of $1.1 million in expenses that the city-parish is seeking reimbursement for, Santo said.
GOHSEP had set Wednesday as the deadline for Mayor-President Kip Holden to complete the application for the grants. The grants, covering fiscal years 2009 and 2010, are part of the Urban Areas Securities Initiative and total $2.9 million.
The office has already granted the city-parish two deadline extensions.
For a year, the agency has been trying unsuccessfully to persuade Holden to seek and obtain the signature of Sheriff Sid Gautreaux.
State rules require that parish sheriffs sign off on certain federal homeland grants as chief law enforcement officer because a 25 percent share is reserved for law enforcement purposes. Every parish except East Baton Rouge Parish has fulfilled this requirement already for these grants.
Holden contends GOHSEP lacks the legal authority to require him to have the sheriff review and sign the grant documents. Holden has said the requirement essentially gives the sheriff veto power over how homeland funds are spent.
In July, GOHSEP took control over administering two similar State Homeland Security Program grants worth $921,181 for fiscal years 2009 and 2010. With those grants as well, Holden refused to follow state rules and let Gautreaux review and sign the grant applications.
Holden’s chief administrative officer, John Carpenter, did not respond to a request for comment late Wednesday afternoon.