SELA Lawsuit 25JUL16 (copy)

File photo of Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project construction in 2016.

As an attorney representing the interests of homeowners whose residences suffered extensive damages as a result of the Sewerage and Water Board’s yearslong SELA drainage construction project, I would like to respond to columnist James Gill’s Feb. 9 column: “They won their lawsuit against the S&WB. They'll wait for years to see their money.”

Regrettably, the SWB was misleading Gill when they told him they are cash-strapped and cannot pay these victims. In fact, the SWB projects a surplus of $55.8 million for the year ending 2020, has over $3.5 billion in assets, and has booked reserves of $227.1 million for SELA liabilities. This hoard of cash is no state secret; I found it in public records.

While pleading poverty, the SWB wastes millions of taxpayer dollars on lawyers and “forensic engineers” for testimony that SELA construction did not damage homes. This taxpayer-funded testimony was found to be “not credible” by a court of appeals.

Many of these homeowners are working-class or senior citizens on fixed incomes who cannot afford to repair their homes from the SELA damages. But the SWB would rather spend years in court and avoid its responsibilities. The SWB needs to do the right thing — it broke these homes and now needs to pay to fix them.

Michael T. Whitaker


New Orleans