Covering Louisiana

Mar 12, 2014 11:20 AM by AP

Feds to investigate of Gustav work in Livingston

LIVINGSTON, La. (AP) - The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it will seek an investigation into the potentially fraudulent practices of a monitoring firm Livingston Parish hired to oversee debris removal after Hurricane Gustav.

FEMA also is considering reneging on the nearly $2 million already allocated for monitoring the removal of leaning trees and hanging limbs from parish rights of way.

The agency outlined its position in a 192-page response to Livingston's request for arbitration to resolve the dispute over $59 million in unpaid Gustav cleanup costs.

The Advocate reports the case is before the U.S. Civilian Board of Contract Appeals.

FEMA's response, filed Friday, claims monitors from Professional Engineering Consultants who oversaw the debris removal were inexperienced, poorly trained and specifically advised to document ineligible work and submit fraudulent claims.

FEMA's response, filed Friday, claims monitors from Professional Engineering Consultants who oversaw the debris removal were inexperienced, poorly trained and specifically advised to document ineligible work and submit fraudulent claims.

FEMA said it plans to ask the Office of Inspector General's Criminal Investigative and Audit Unit to look into the work done by monitors in Livingston.

Problems FEMA cited with the work on leaning trees and hanging limbs included confusing and inconsistent GPS coordinates for the cut trees, the same photographs being used as evidence for multiple claims and work done on property for which the parish was not legally responsible.

Evidence used to bolster FEMA's arguments included affidavits from former Parish President Mike Grimmer and former contractor Corey Delahoussaye, whose C-Del Inc. the parish hired in 2009 to help resolve wetlands permit and mitigation issues that surfaced after the storm.

FEMA declined through a spokeswoman Tuesday to comment on when the affidavits were made, the nature of Grimmer's or Delahoussaye's involvement in the arbitration or any other aspects of the case while it is pending before the appeals board.

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