A controversial drainage project, which is the subject of a federal lawsuit and a federal investigation, may have another point of controversy.
The Current has posted a story, based on interviews and public records, indicating that Lafayette Consolidated Government paid much more than market value for their piece of the involved property.
At issue is a project that LCG already has completed in St. Martin Parish, which removed decades-old levees on property partially owned by LCG. St. Martin Parish officials said that LCG did the project in the dark of night, and without permits from either the parish or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. LCG already had filed for a permit at a different location with the Corps; that permit application was withdrawn after St. Martin told the Corps that no parish permits for it would be granted.
The Corps launched an investigation into the project, and issued a cease-and-desist letter. More than a month later, LCG responded to say the project was done properly. A lawsuit was filed by LCG in Lafayette district court, asking a judge to rule that the project was done properly. St. Martin Parish Government already had decided to file suit, but LCG filed suit first, naming St. Martin and the Corps. A short time later, the Corps had the suit moved to federal court.
Last week, the City Council chair asked a series of extremely specific questions regarding this project. Read our story about that here.
The Current already has reported that the work cost more than $3.7 million but was paid through an "as-needed," $390,000 contract. Several people interviewed for that story indicated that the payment may have violated the public bid law.
The Current's most recent story on the project indicates that, when LCG bought their piece of the property in question, the price paid was much higher than the property's worth.
From recordings in the St. Martin Parish courthouse dated March 9, withheld from being filed into the public record an unusually lengthy 16 days after LCG bought the property, a property owner interviewed by The Current learned the other two co-owner groups were each paid $42,000 for their one-third shares. But the land’s total value was set at $42,000, according to a property appraisal The Current obtained through a public records request.
The Current reports that LCG paid $84,000 for two-thirds interest in land that appears to only be worth a total of $42,000. And once the minority discount is applied, the portion LCG bought is worth $21,000. In short, LCG potentially paid four times the market value for this property.