LIVINGSTON — Another controversy over separation of powers may be brewing between the Livingston Parish Council and the parish president.
Parish President Layton Ricks said Friday he doesn’t plan to sign a $373,000 check to C-Del Inc., as directed by the Parish Council, until questions about the invoices are resolved.
District Attorney Scott Perrilloux said he thinks such a decision is an administrative one for the parish president to make and not a legislative one to be decided by the Parish Council.
Jill Craft, the attorney for C-Del, said that if Ricks refuses to pay the bill, she may be forced to ask a court to order him to do so.
Council Chairwoman Cindy Wale said the bill needs to be paid and she feels the council has the power to order the parish president to comply with its decision. A judge ruled that way in a similar case under the previous administration, she said.
That case dates back to last year when then-Parish President Mike Grimmer refused to sign a check made out to an engineering firm after being instructed to do so by the Parish Council.
A District Court judge ordered Grimmer to issue the check to Alvin Fairburn & Associates, but Grimmer appealed that decision to the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.
However, the higher court never ruled on the issue. It found that the case was moot when Ricks took over as parish president and issued the check, said Julie Baxter, the attorney who represented Fairburn.
Shortly after taking office, Ricks also stopped payment on a $379,000 check issued to C-Del by Grimmer. Ricks said he didn’t want to pay that bill until questions about it were resolved.
C-Del Inc. has billed the parish for more than $2 million for its work under a contract to help the parish resolve wetlands permit and mitigation issues lingering from the parish’s efforts to clean up and dispose of downed trees and other debris left by Hurricane Gustav in 200.
Questions arose about some of the bills submitted by C-Del and an auditor reported finding “unusual items” in a “review of a limited sample of invoices and supporting documentation.”
For instance, the report cited records from Greystone Country Club indicating that Corey Delahoussaye, owner of C-Del, was playing golf or dining at the country club during hours invoiced to the parish.
During a special council meeting called Tuesday night to discuss the matter, Delahoussaye said the country club listed his golf charges on incorrect days.
He also showed the council records of emails and other work he said he did during the billed hours and said he worked other hours that he did not bill.
The Parish Council voted 5-2 to direct the parish president to pay most of the $379,000 bill, but to deduct about $6,000 in invoices questioned by the auditor.
Councilwoman Joan Landry, who voted against the motion, said the $6,000 represents what the auditor found in an examination of only a small portion of the C-Del invoices.
She said the matter was being submitted to the Office of State Inspector General.
The district attorney said the parish should let the process run its course.
After the meeting, Delahoussaye described the situation as “a witch hunt.”
C-Del’s attorney said her client has done the work he was contracted to do and deserves to be paid.
If the parish president refuses to pay, then going to court to force him to fulfill his duty would be a logical step, Craft said.
Ricks said Friday that the parish has sent a letter to the Inspector General and that the C-Del information is being forwarded.
Ricks said he doesn’t think the parish’s taxpayers want any additional funds to be paid to C-Del until the matter is resolved.
Ricks said that if nothing improper is found, he plans to pay the bill.