A last-ditch effort by Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory to avoid a City Council investigation of his administration failed Tuesday.

The council voted unanimously to transfer $100,000 for an audit and investigation into questionable drainage projects and whether Guillory benefitted in any way from city-parish projects.

Prior to the vote, Guillory said he electronically transferred to council members over the weekend answers to 18 questions the council requested in June after news reports surfaced of problems with drainage projects, three of which are in state and federal court.

Guillory at the time suggested the council hire an auditor to get answers because his staff was too busy preparing the proposed 2022-23 budget to compile the answers.

On Tuesday, Guillory's Deputy Chief of Staff, Jamie Angelle, displayed binders in the council meeting room, supposedly containing more than 3,500 pages of documents in response to the council's questions. Guillory said his accounting and public works departments shut down for days so staff could focus on responding to the council's questions.

The mayor-president said he hoped by providing the answers the council would not spend $100,000 in taxpayer money on the investigation.

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Lafayette City Coucilwoman Nanette Cook attends a meeting of the Lafayette City and Parish Councils Tuesday, March 3, 2020, in Lafayette, La.

Council Chairwoman Nanette Cook said the council will provide its investigators with Guillory's responses and said it's doubtful the full $100,000 will be needed for the investigation.

Councilman Andy Naquin, Guillory's biggest supporter on the City Council, said the investigation is needed to clear up questions for the public and to clear Guillory's name. 

"We want to make sure that Josh Guillory is above everything that they've thrown at you," Naquin said.

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City Council member Andy Naquin speaks during a town hall meeting with Protect the City Committee appointee Mark Pope to discuss deconsolidation on Thursday, June 17, 2021, at the Robichaux Recreation Center in Lafayette.

Several residents asked the council to conduct the investigation, including Susan Gillette, president of Bendel Partnership, representing more than 30 family members who own more than 300 acres of farmland on the Vermilion River that Guillory seized through the quick-take expropriation process to build detention ponds. The project is one of three tied up in court.

Gillette said the expropriation was "nothing but a power wielding unproven money dump." Gillette said she prays the City Council is "successful in uncovering who is gaining from this poorly planned and badly executed project and we strongly suggest you look start with Guillory, his contractors and engineers."

Lafayette resident Jan Swift asked the council and administration for transparency. When she asked CAO Cydra Wingerter for a copy of the more than 3,500 documents the administration produced in response to the council's 18 questions, Swift said Wingerter told her it would cost more than $3,500, $1 per page.

Guillory's administration recently began charging $1 per page to transmit public records electronically. Two news organizations, The Acadiana Advocate and The Current, filed a lawsuit Monday.

Lafayette Consolidated Government is in federal court over the removal in February of a spoil bank in St. Martin Parish. Lafayette quietly purchased property in St. Martin Parish and amended a contract for excavation work that resulted in millions of dollars for a project that wasn't bid. Without permission from St. Martin Parish or the Corps of Engineers, the contractor, Rigid Constructors, removed the spoil bank in the middle of the night.

Lafayette officials claim the spoil bank stopped the Vermilion River from draining into a St. Martin Parish swamp during high water times. St. Martin officials dispute the claim and say removal of the spoil bank may increase flooding for their residents.


Email Claire Taylor at ctaylor@theadvocate.com.

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