Over the last 4 years, Parish President V.J. St. Pierre’s administration has provided parish residents with more than $140,000 worth of free dumpster rentals.
St. Pierre used a “blight elimination program” as part of his running for president. The plan, which was put into place after he was elected, included delivery of free dumpster rentals for those who were doing teardowns of blighted properties. After 143 teardowns, the total cost rings in at $140,975.
Essentially, the program was using public funds for private teardown projects. He was informed nearly 9 months ago that the plan was unconstitutional after a Nov. 26, 2013 opinion by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, yet nothing has been done to fix the issue. There are currently no plans to retrieve money from the residents who benefitted from the free service or to return the money back into public funds.
The administration stated that a plan to change is necessary, but gave no details on how the funds would be returned.
Councilman Paul Hogan was one of the members who called for the opinion that ultimately found the program unconstitutional. He states he has made nine formal requests to get more information, but has not received any concrete plans for addressing the issue from the parish.
In an email by the chief administrative officer for St. Charles Parish, Buddy Boe, he states “In our opinion, the expenses associated with providing dumpsters in the past cannot be levied by SCP (St. Charles Parish) retroactively because a levy can only be placed through a court order – prior to work beginning – after normal procedures have been followed and within a window of 30 to 60 days.”
Hogan believes the parish is trying to ignore the issue, not address it or answer any questions, in hopes that it will be forgotten about and disappear on its own.
Council Chairwoman Julia Fisher-Perrier also voted for the original opinion along with Hogan, and said she thinks “it is all on the administration’s shoulders on how they are going to do it and when they are going to do it.”
Although those who received dumpsters should likely be responsible for paying the funds back, collecting that money would be nearly impossible. This is especially difficult since some of these dumpsters were rented out as far back as November 2009.
If action is not taken in regards to the issue, Hogan plans to discuss an ordinance at the Parish Council meeting. It will petition for St. Pierre to secure a repayment for the $140,975 that was used on the blight elimination program.