LIVINGSTON — During one of the Livingston Parish Council’s most turbulent meetings in a decade, tempers flared Thursday night among council members, audience participants and representatives of companies involved in the Hurricane Gustav cleanup.
Council Chairman Randy Rushing received jeers from the public when he instructed security officers to eject Councilman Marshall Harris for not sticking to an agenda item in his comments. After a few minutes, Rushing relented.
Harris subsequently asked a cleanup company official how the firm could have charged the parish more than $100,000 to clean up hurricane debris at two schools that had already been cleaned up.
The work was documented and photographed, said Tom Carnes, of IED, the firm that handled the 2008 Hurricane Gustav debris removal project for the parish.
Under questioning by Harris, Carnes said he didn’t know if the schools already had been cleaned up.
Harris said the School Board had removed storm debris from all of the schools in the parish for $52,000.
“How can you charge $110,000 to clean up two schools that were already cleaned up?” he asked Carnes.
“We did not bill for work that wasn’t done,” Carnes said.
Harris said the company went onto the school property and did work without School Board authorization.
Carnes said he believes the company’s project manager felt he was authorized to be at the schools.
Harris said he is also concerned Recreation District 3 would be held liable for $900,000 in hurricane cleanup costs even though it never signed an agreement for the work.
Councilman Jimmy McCoy said both the recreation board and the council passed resolutions to enter into an intergovernmental agreement for work to be done at public parks, but he does not know if the agreement was signed.
Brian Fairburn, who was director of the parish Office of Emergency Preparedness at the time, said he authorized the work.
Fairburn said he was working night and day trying to get the parish cleaned up after the hurricane and was getting no help from Parish President Mike Grimmer or most of the Parish Council members.
“Is there any doubt that the work was done?” asked Eddie Aydell, chief engineer of Fairburn and Associates, which did monitoring work during cleanup operations. The work at the parks “was done as a service to the public.”
Questions about the cleanup raised by some council members are an attempt to torpedo efforts get the parish reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Aydell said.
Councilwoman Cindy Wale asked if any member of the council or their relatives had benefited financially from the cleanup work.
McCoy said his son is an equipment operator who worked for one of the subcontractors.
He said that situation was reported to the State Ethics Board, which found no violation.
Eddie Wagner said it was alleged that his son had a burn site, but that was not correct.
Don Wheat said there were allegations that he had relatives involved in the cleanup, but “it was all lies.”
“No, my 5-year-old didn’t do anything” in connection with the cleanup, Councilman Thomas Watson said.