The Jefferson Parish inspector general is urging the parish to more carefully vet appointees to parish boards after a member of an advisory board was found to have homestead exemptions in two parishes, a violation of the law, and to be registered to vote in another parish.
The inspector general's report, released this week, provided several findings and recommendations following an inquiry into the 2018 appointment of Kirk Usey to the parish's Planning Advisory Board.
Usey was nominated by Councilman Mark Spears and was approved by the council in April 2018.
Appointees to the Planning Advisory Board are required to live and be registered to vote in Jefferson Parish. They must also own property in Jefferson Parish.
Usey owns property in Jefferson, according to the report. But at the time of his appointment, he had homestead exemptions on properties in both Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes and was registered to vote in the latter, according to the IG's report.
Under the law, a property owner can have only a single homestead exemption, which provides a tax break on the owner's principal residence.
The Planning Advisory Board is a seven-member board that reviews and accepts public input on land use issues including zoning, subdivisions and codes before presenting recommendations to the Parish Council.
Reached by phone Friday, Usey said he wasn't able to address the report's findings at the time but would call a reporter back. He failed to do so.
According to public records, he now has only one homestead exemption, on a house in Terrytown.
At the time of his appointment, according to the report, he owned a home in Plaquemines Parish, he was employed part-time as a deputy with the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff's Office and his son attended a Plaquemines Parish school.
The Inspector General's Office began looking into Usey's eligibility to serve on the board in October and attempted to schedule an interview with him. But he refused to be interviewed and eventually the OIG issued a subpoena. During a November appearance before investigators, Usey refused to answer several questions, citing the Fifth Amendment, the report says.
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Also in November, Usey removed the homestead exemption on his Plaquemines house and paid some back taxes he owed, the report says. He also changed his voter registration.
In November, he was reappointed to the Jefferson Parish board.
To prevent similar occurrences in the future, the parish should adopt much stricter vetting procedures for appointees to parish boards, the report says.
Specifically, it says, the council should make a parish employee responsible for vetting all appointees and should require that candidates for board seats fill out extensive disclosure forms.
The report notes that neither the council's chief of staff nor the assistant parish attorney assigned to the Planning Advisory Board reviewed Usey's eligibility and that no one checked to see if he had filled out required disclosure forms.
The result was "a failure to achieve compliance with (the council's) own ordinances regarding qualifications for appointment to the Planning Advisory Board," the report says.
Usey remains a member of the board.
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