NEWS ROADS — The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury on Tuesday launched a probe into its employees’ use of parish-issued fuel cards, asking the parish treasurer to obtain surveillance footage from several gas stations where employees fuel up parish vehicles.
The item touched off a fiery exchange among several jurors and an attorney representing parish Recreation Director Salvadore Genusa, who found himself at the center of Tuesday night’s controversy.
Attorney Cy D’Aquila accused Juror Albert Dukes of making false accusations to the media against Genusa, who did not attend the Police Jury’s meeting Tuesday night because he’s on vacation.
And Dukes fired back that his allegations are based on information he received from parish administrators.
“I received a call from (a reporter) saying some tipster let him know that Mr. Dukes is calling for an investigation into Sal Genusa for alleged misuse of a gas card,” D’Aquila told the Police Jury.
“He told (the media) Mr. Genusa was implicated in committing another criminal act. This is the second implication Mr. Dukes has made against Mr. Genusa. Mr. Genusa has a lawsuit against Mr. Dukes right now.”
D’Aquila was referring to the lawsuit Genusa and Parish Administrator Jim Bello filed against Dukes and the entire Police Jury in January 2013, alleging the two men were subjected to verbal and physical abuse from Dukes.
In their lawsuit, the two men accuse Dukes of damaging their professional reputations and causing them mental anguish, humiliation and embarrassment after he publicly called them “incompetent.”
The lawsuit is pending in the 18th Judicial District Court.
“I ask that these things come to a vote before we go public … saying this person did something wrong and defaming this man,” D’Aquila said.
“What I told the media was information I received from the Treasurer’s Office two weeks ago,” Dukes retorted. “We have a serious problem with this in several departments. It’s all there in black and white. The administration told me no one was supposed to be using gas cards unless it’s an emergency.”
But Bello and parish officials said “emergency situations” oftentimes involve employees going to local gas stations to fill up because the parish barns are closed.
There was no mention during the meeting of how much money the parish spends annually on fuel or what in particular raised jurors’ concerns.
In its motion Tuesday night, the Police Jury also said it will turn the investigation over to the Sheriff’s Office if gas stations are unwilling to provide video footage to the treasurer.
“I think it’s premature for us to sit in public and talk about something that’s under investigation,” Juror Cornell Dukes said before the vote. “We can discuss this later — after we have gotten all of the information.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.