St. Tammany Parish, Transparent But Not Accountable

The HUD Office of Inspector General released a report detailing the deficiencies found in the administration of funds by the St. Tammany Parish Government in language that sounds very familiar for those that recall the quiet disappearance of the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation.
What are the odds that a former inter-governmental foundation sharing membership with the parish council and the parish government itself do not follow the rules and procedures laid out before them with regard to public dollars? The odds are undeniable.
What the report found The Parish did not always administer its disaster recovery program in accordance with HUD requirements and in line with its certifications to HUD. Specifically, it did not (1) support that it performed an independent cost estimate and adequate cost analyses or maintained complete procurement files; (2) maintain a complete monitoring policy and finalize and fully implement its policy to aid in detecting fraud, waste, and abuse or have an internal audit function; or (3) include all required information and understand the program and its requirements. As a result of these systemic deficiencies, the Parish could not provide reasonable assurance to HUD that it would properly administer, adequately safeguard, and spend its remaining $8.67 million allocated for CDBG disaster recovery funds in accordance with requirements, and paid more than $400,000 in questioned costs. Full report posted at hudoig.gov & view @ covingtonweekly.com
State Supreme Court Rules in Favor of DA
In another slam to St. Tammany Parish Government’s fragile ego, the Louisiana State Supreme Court Ruled in favor of District Attorney Warren Montgomery by reversing a previous lower court decision regarding parish council and administrative representation. The irony in the decision is that before the lawsuit, the Parish Government attempted to change language in the parish’s Home Rule Charter that supported their interpretation by putting it to a vote.
The public voted it down.
Ignoring the results of the vote, the Parish Government chose to move forward with the lawsuit anyway, resulting in nearly 1/2 million dollars wasted. It is amazing what 30 years of comfortable impropriety will do to rational thought process. I seem to recall the public being chastised for the suit that was pursued in relation to the hydraulic fracturing situation, and that was only a couple hundred thousand. But the public should accept the parish fighting its own duly elected District Attorney? What about the parish government suing its own constituency over drainage issues it is ultimately responsible for? It was written before, and it is now written again: the transparency is there, but the accountability is still lacking.

Editor’s Note: The blatant disregard for the rules shown in the HUD OIG report is a mirror image of the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation. Rather than address those problems, it was decided that it was time to pull the plug, much easier than the possibility of something incriminating to surface. I speculate that a portion of the revenue bonds are fraudulent to begin with; the parish gets property and improvements upon default.
Maybe they should do the same thing with the parish government, just pull the plug on it and start over from scratch. At best, the council and administration is filled with fancy* liars; at worst, it is filled with thieves who do not care about serving the public at all.
As editor and contributor of the Covington Weekly for going on 7 years now, I refute being told by peers that my presentation of views is uncooperative or trouble-making. I publish public information that is kept from the public. It is becoming clear to everyone that it is our parish leadership that is uncooperative.
Our parish leadership is telling us that they have no money while they are diverting disaster relief funds to their pet government projects. Our parish leadership is telling us that we need to dredge rivers, when it is the rampant development of wetlands (thanks to Steve Scalise) that is contributing to “historic floods.”
Our parish leadership needs better stories.
Timothy Achan Gates Email: covweekly@gmail.com

* “fancy” denotes a law degree