Covering Louisiana

Oct 26, 2012 10:50 AM by AP

Livingston continues fight over cleanup funds

LIVINGSTON, La. (AP) - The Livingston Parish Council has voted to continue a fight with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get $46.1 million in cleanup funds that have been denied by FEMA.

Councilman Ricky Goff said he finds it hard to believe that Hurricane Gustav dropped trees into streams and now FEMA is saying none of them needed to be removed.

The Advocate reports Goff successfully moved to pay $20,000 more to continue the parish's appeal of the costs to clean up the parish drainage system after the storm. Those costs were all denied by FEMA.

Councilman Marshall Harris said Thursday night's question was whether to end the appeal now and stop spending taxpayers' money.

Councilman Jim Norred said the council is "between a rock and a hard place" in which it might spend the money and get no results or not spend the money and be questioned to why it didn't continue to pursue the matter.

Councilwoman Joan Landry said spending $20,000 on the appeal could save the parish a lot of money in the future.

The parish's contractor has sued the parish for $53 million in unpaid cleanup bills.

Asked by Chairwoman Cindy Wale if FEMA committed fraud, council attorney Shelby Easterly III said he used the word "misrepresentation" in the appeal.

FEMA found 30 streams eligible for cleanup and then suppressed that information and found them ineligible.

Easterly said he is going through thousands of pages of records, seeking additional evidence of such cases.

What FEMA has done to the parish is wrong, Parish President Layton Ricks told the council.

Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy called for an investigation of FEMA's Louisiana Recovery Office, saying the parish has presented "very serious and apparently well-documented accusations of wrongdoing."

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