A Livingston Parish drainage board member resigned after he said two Parish Council members threatened to block a bonding agreement for a vital drainage project if he remained on the board.
Roy Zachary, former board chairman for the parish’s Gravity Drainage District 1, said Tuesday he resigned because newly seated Parish Councilmen John Wascom and Maurice “Scooter” Keen made it clear he is no longer wanted on the board.
“I have also heard that there could possibly be an attempt to stop the parish bonding on what might be the largest drainage project in the history of Livingston Parish — the Gray’s Creek/Dixon Canal Project — if I were to try to remain on the Board,” Zachary wrote in his Jan. 7 resignation letter.
Two other board members — Jim Benton and Lana Averette — resigned this week or confirmed intentions to do so. District engineer Jason Harris put in his notice Friday, for unrelated reasons.
Wascom and Keen denied Zachary’s allegations Tuesday, saying they only needed more time to review the Gray’s Creek study before they could support using the parish government’s bonding capacity to finance the improvements.
Wascom said he had spoken with several people — not including Zachary — about the possibility of replacing Zachary before his term expired in November 2017, but he had not yet made a decision.
Wascom said Zachary and Parish President Layton Ricks had been at odds, and he believes board members need to be able to work with both the parish president and council.
Zachary contends there is more to it than that.
“They were after me for standing up on the (Hurricane) Gustav stuff,” Zachary said.
Zachary testified against the parish in a 2014 arbitration hearing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over federal reimbursement for hurricane cleanup costs. He told the judges that the monitoring firm that oversaw debris removal in the drainage district had falsified reports by signing drainage district employees’ names to work orders.
The monitoring firm — Alvin Fairburn & Associates, where Ricks worked before taking office in 2012 — has denied those allegations.
Ricks said he did not orchestrate Zachary’s resignation, which he stressed was Zachary’s choice alone.
“Roy has been a friend of mine for many, many years,” Ricks said. “Having said that, we don’t have the best working relationship.”
Ricks said he told the councilmen, at their request, about a few issues he had with Zachary: Zachary had kept him from talking to the district’s engineer about a drainage issue at Juban Crossing. The two officials also sparred over whether the drainage district would deepen a ditch to help the parish secure federal funds for the Eden Church Road project.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.