OPELOUSAS — The St. Landry Parish Council unanimously authorized its council attorney Wednesday to research a state law requiring public boards and officials to document annual expenditures and salaries.
Council member Wayne Ardoin asked parish attorney Lance Pitre to look into the matter after St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz provided parish government with a list of Sheriff’s Office expenses and employees’ salaries.
“I was told at that time when I received this information from the sheriff that it is required that all public entities, including boards that we appoint, do so,” Ardoin said.
Ardoin said he requested a list of expenses and salaries from Guidroz, who voluntarily provided the information. Guidroz, who attended Wednesday night’s meeting, said he filed a copy of the expenditure list with the Clerk of Court’s Office as required by state law.
“There is also a copy at (the Sheriff’s Office) for anyone to review at their convenience,” Guidroz said. “It’s all public record and it’s there for the public to see. We have nothing to hide.”
Ardoin said the Sheriff’s Office is the only agency funded by parish government to provide an expenditure list to the council.
“If the sheriff is giving us this kind of information, why aren’t the other entities doing so? From what I understand, June 30 was the deadline to file this with the Clerk of Court, and no other boards or districts that we select have done so,” Ardoin said.
In other matters, Troy Bernal, an environmental toxicologist representing Conestoga Rivers and Associates, updated the council on the chemical cleanup associated with the Union Pacific Railroad train derailment on Aug. 4 in Lawtell.
Bernal, whose company is overseeing the cleanup, said the work involving soil removal and chemical cleanup is about 80 percent complete. Nearly 7,000 tons of soil from the derailment area has been removed and shipped to a site near Livonia, he said.
Bernal said there are no skin or respiratory risks to the workers involved in cleaning up the chemicals and soil at the derailment sites.
“None of the workers are wearing protective suits or masks when they are working,” he said.
Bernal said teams of workers are continuing to collect water and soil samples from Bayou Mallet and other water tributaries around the site, but no chemical contamination has been found.
Allen Guillory, a member of the Lawtell Water District, which serves the area included in the derailment, said he is concerned that Union Pacific and the Department of Environmental Quality have not issued any reports detailing the quality of soil and water in the derailment area.
“As a citizen, as a board member and from someone who has concerns, we need answers to these questions,” Guillory said.
Bernal said data is being compiled by his company and a report would be released soon.
When reporters attempted to ask Bernal questions about his company and his role in the cleanup in an interview outside the meeting room, he was advised not to answer them by an attorney who did not identify himself.
Also parish president Bill Fontenot said that gravel roads will be included on a priority list that will be created if a two-cent, parishwide sales tax proposition for road construction and maintenance in unincorporated areas of the parish is passed Oct. 19.
Ardoin asked Fontenot if a road priority list exists. Fontenot said it would not be a good idea to create a priority list for fixing roads before voters decide the matter.