“…the general heat will die down, except for the loonies.” – Don Shea
This is an excerpt of one of several emails referencing the St. Tammany fracking controversy publicized by the Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany as a result of records requests for official Parish correspondence. The State responded by releasing over 8,000 emails to CCST. Find out more about CCST at www.ccstp.org.
Many remember the popular Looney Toons character, Michigan J. Frog. Michigan breaks out in song and dance for only one man, who, driven by money, tries desperately to get the frog before the public, to no avail.
Meet Tammany J. Frog, Michigan’s Southern cousin. Tammany differs from his Northeast counterpart with his mustache and yat dialect, offering gifts of money. For a while, Tammany J. Frog sang and danced for the parish officials only. Now the public is beginning to see the song and dance, and something seems slightly out of tune.
St. Tammany Director Economic Development Don Shea, when asked by Parish Councilman Jacob Groby at the February 2014 Parish Council Meeting if there were any pending business proposals with regard to the Economic Development Districts, responded, “No sir, we’re quite ahead of the development curve.” (Watch the video at www.stpgov.org) While public discussion of the leaked emails exists, one noticeable discrepancy is unaddressed by the media. The tone and dates of the emails (the emails discussed in this article took place in April and May 2014 – see covingtonweekly.com) suggest a relationship that extends well beyond February 2014.
In a separate April 2014 email between Shea and Parish President Pat Brister, Shea writes that a resolution to ban fracking would hamper their efforts to grow the tax base, “give a very harmful signal to Helis of course,” and disappoint the “already substantial” oil & gas employment sector in STP. Efficiency and industriousness of our parish officials aside, it is difficult to imagine that the Parish Council or the public is expected to believe that Shea was not aware of a hydraulic fracturing project of the magnitude proposed by Helis Oil & Gas in February, a short time before the emails were written.
While the development districts were promoted to the Council as a tool to aid accountability and transparency, the released emails convey a certain degree of contempt for the public and illustrate a need for greater public oversight of Parish activity. After speaking with Mr. Shea on the phone, this writer was referred to Ronnie Simpson, Parish Director of Public Information and Intergovernmental Relations, who was not available for comment.
Timothy Gates may be reached at 985-288-9609 or by email at email@example.com
For more information, visit www.ccstp.org