Council drops attorney handling appeal to FEMA

The Livingston Parish Council has terminated its contract with the attorney handling the parish’s final appeal for reimbursement of $46.1 million in debris removal costs stemming from Hurricane Gustav.

The council voted 7-2 Thursday to end its contract with attorney Shelby Easterly and to send a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency saying the parish has exhausted all its efforts and seeks a final resolution to its appeals.

Easterly said he had pored over thousands of pages of documents in the eight weeks since the council last approved a $20,000 extension of his contract in an effort to find evidence of fraud by FEMA to supplement the parish’s final appeal.

Easterly contends FEMA officials, among other things, found 30 streams eligible for cleanup and then suppressed that information and found them ineligible.

Easterly said he anticipated completing the supplement Friday and sending it on to FEMA for a response, which he said is supposed to take only 90 days but could take longer.

Councilwomen Joan Landry and Sonya Collins cast the dissenting votes. Both said they would have preferred to keep Easterly under contract, without any predetermined pay, pending the final outcome of the appeal in case FEMA requested any additional information from the parish.

Landry’s submotion to that effect failed on a 7-2 vote, with only Collins voting with her in favor.

Collins strongly objected to the council’s vote to send a letter to FEMA, arguing that “it sounds awful” to tell the agency that the parish has exhausted all resources to fight the denials.

The parish’s contractor has sued the parish for $53 million in unpaid cleanup bills related to the 2008 hurricane.

Other business before the Parish Council included:

JUBAN CROSSING: Developers of the Juban Crossing mixed-use development east of Denham Springs will seek State Bond Commission approval for a financial plan that would combine revenue from a 2-cent sales tax and 40 percent of drainage and road taxes collected within the development district to back bonds for the project.

The public funds would be used only for public improvements in the development, such as roads, lighting, drainage, sewage system, water system and sidewalks, said Scott Crawford, an attorney representing Creekstone Development.

With commission approval, the long-delayed project could break ground as early as January and open the doors of its 300,000-square-foot first phase of retail development by March 15, 2014, Crawford said.

The three-phase development, when completed, will include more than 1 million square feet of stores, restaurants, movie theater and single- and multi-family homes, and create more than 2,500 permanent jobs, Crawford said.

The Parish Council voted 8-1 in support of the developer’s commission application.

CONTRACTOR LITIGATION: The council voted 8-1 to give parish attorney Chris Moody the authority to pursue settlement in a lawsuit filed against the parish by former contractor, C-Del Inc., owned by Corey Delahoussaye.

Delahoussaye in August sued the parish and three firms involved in Hurricane Gustav cleanup work, claiming his contract with the parish to monitor the work of those firms was terminated, and his final payment stopped, because he reported illegal and improper work being performed.

Parish President Layton Ricks has said he issued a stop payment on the check because Delahoussaye was under investigation for padding his bills.