Bribery tales spur demand

Jefferson councilman wants probe of agency, cites arrests

Jefferson Parish Councilman Mark Spears wants the parish’s Office of Inspection and Code Enforcement investigated amid reports that code inspectors have been taking bribes to approve projects.

Spears introduced a resolution calling for the investigation at Wednesday’s Jefferson Parish Council meeting in Harahan. The resolution called for Parish President John Young’s administration to investigate these allegations and present the council’s Governmental Ethics Compliance and Audit Committee with a report by Dec. 19. The resolution was passed unanimously.

“We’re waiting for the administration to see what they come back with,” Spears said. “It’s clear that investigation is continuing to go on. “

The resolution asked Young to provide:

Spears’ resolution notes that neither the council nor the ethics committee has ever been formally notified of any investigations into bribery or allegations of bribery. Spears said he learned from employees about the investigation. However in October, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office arrested Alphonse Chauvin, 70, of Metairie, and booked him with malfeasance in office and second-degree injuring of public records. Police also arrested Randy Gaspard, 35, Michael Cenac, 57, and Omar Oceguera, 44, in connection with the issue, which involved a Metairie home.

Chauvin was accused of accepting bribes to falsify records regarding plumbing inspections needed for home elevations being performed in the parish. At the time, investigators said that Chauvin lied about performing mandated inspections and the final state of homes. Those issues were discovered by one of Chauvin’s supervisors. The Sheriff’s Office declined to release too much information on the issue at the time citing an ongoing investigation.

Young acknowledged that there are issues being investigated in the code enforcement office but said that’s being handled by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office because there are questions about illegal actions. Young said his administration will not accept corruption, but it might be improper to discuss the issue before the ethics committee when the Sheriff’s Office is doing an investigation.

“This administration has zero tolerance… Obviously if there is an investigation by law enforcement authorities, then that information is not normally shared,” Young said.

Councilman Chris Roberts suggested that the administration make a presentation to the committee that avoided sensitive information, but Young expressed some reserve about that course.