To maintain transparency and in the spirit of full disclosure, Mayor-President Josh Guillory and the Administration are making available the details, documents, and actions provided to the City Council’s questions regarding drainage projects.
At a Joint City and Parish Council meeting on May 3, Lafayette Consolidated Government's Public Works and Drainage Departments provided an extensive, two-and-a-half-hour update regarding all drainage projects conducted in the past two years. Over 60 projects, estimated at a value of $106,375,000 were discussed.https://video.ibm.com/recorded/131724162?fbclid=IwAR2eFY_XCOEJ-5tbVIFvLRFGt7ZQpjRwL1tuWVXwpeaT1X_GPjxMxa7mm7A (begins at 01:08:45)
On Monday, June 6, the Administration was notified of a Special Meeting the following day on Tuesday June 7 to introduce the redistricting ordinances for the City Council. At this special meeting, which only required 24-hour notice, the City Council Chair Nanette Cook and Vice-Chair Glenn Lazard had also placed a separate discussion item on the agenda- Follow up discussion on drainage projects to include a discussion on public bid law, contracts, and legal services. The Administration was informed that Council Members Cook and Lazard are working on questions that would be presented at the meeting. The Administration was also advised that the questions would likely be relatively easy to answer, and hard copies of the questions would be provided in the event that some of the questions could not be answered on the spot.
In response to the email from the Council Office, Chief Administrative Officer Cydra Wingerter responded that given the 24-hour notice she was not sure who would be present at the meeting to answer the questions. Further, she correlation between the redistricting discussion and the drainage follow up being on the same short notice agenda. The Council Office responded that the questions came up after the Regular Meeting agenda was already finalized, so they couldn’t be added.The requested professional courtesies from the Administration to the Council Office is to provide advanced notice for requests for discussions, presentations, etc. from staff and directors to ensure that the appropriate subject matter experts are available and prepared. Further, a call from a Council Member to the Mayor-President regarding the request for a public discussion can help steer the right directors to the meeting. Council Members regularly reach out to the Mayor-President on a regular basis with questions, requests, or issues that need to be addressed. Neither Councilwoman Cook nor Councilman Lazard called with these questions.
At the Special Meeting, Councilwoman Cook stated that she had finished typing the 18 questions that morning and distributed hard copies and read them aloud. She stated that she understood that they were requesting a lot of information and she did not expect a response during the meeting but requested the answers be submitted by email within two weeks and that a discussion item could be added to the agenda for the first Council meeting in July.
CAO Cydra Wingerter responded that the questions would be addressed but communicated that the requested courtesies and protocols for advanced notice had not been honored by the Council. Additionally, she brought attention to the email notice of the Special Meeting that stated the answers could be answered during the meeting, which led to directors and staff members being unnecessarily present at the meeting for five hours. The CAO stated that had the questions been provided that morning when they were finalized, the directors and staff member could have started working on them instead of attending the meeting.
The Administration is required by the Charter to submit a proposed budget. The proposed budget was set to be introduced at a Joint Council meeting on July 19 and was required to be completed at least two weeks in advance in order to have hard copy books produced in time. After examining the 18 questions, the Accounting Division would have to pull nearly 200 physical checks, identify every activity associated with the checks, and then turn over that work product to the Public Works Department for the narrative of each activity associated with each check.
Understanding that the staff responsible for responding to the questions were dedicated to finalizing the budget and realizing the significant manpower required to respond, Mayor-President Josh Guillory responded via letter to both Councils expressing that time required to respond will be extraordinary for employees during the midst of preparing the executive budget in order to meet the Councils’ published timelines. For the sake of transparency, the Mayor-President recommended a qualified, independent auditor was the best solution to answering these questions to remove any and all doubt of the legitimacy of the final responses. He recommended Special Joint Meeting of the Parish and City Councils on July 5 to introduce a budget amendment for a special audit of these matters by the Councils’ designated auditor, Kolder, Slaven & Company, LLC.There was no formal response from the Council Members to this letter or his recommendation.
At the Regular City Council Meeting on September 6, a resolution was presented by Councilwoman Cook and Councilman Lazard to initiate an investigation of the Administration related to all drainage-related projects and the use of public funds, personnel, and resources by the Mayor-President since he has been in office.
Councilman Andy Naquin asked City-Parish Attorney Greg Logan if this audit could cause issues with pending litigation LCG is involved in since the investigation would have to be public record per the Charter. Logan confirmed that the resolution was very broad and could be problematic and interfere with the judiciary process. Councilman Naquin stated that the third-party auditor expressed similar concerns after viewing the Resolution.
Councilwoman Cook stated that she saw no issue with moving forward since the Council should be privy to that information. Councilman Naquin expressed his and the auditor’s concern that the Resolution was very broad and did not directly address the 18 questions. Councilwoman Cook said that the audit would begin with the 18 questions but was left broad in case anything else came up during the investigation. Councilman Naquin pointed out that the Resolution did not say that. He also clarified that passing the Resolution would not begin the investigation since there was no funding budgeted for it and that they should make sure it would not jeopardize pending litigation before they started it. The Resolution was passed.https://video.ibm.com/recorded/132087997 (starts at 01:45:34)
During the week of September 12, with the budget process coming to an end, the Administration halted all other work in the Accounting Division and all administrative work in Public Works to provide the necessary manpower to put together the responses to the 18 questions. The effort took countless hours and resulted in a 3,500-page response that was delivered to the Councils via email on September 17.
The redacted version of the documents that were provided to the City Council are available below.
At the Regular City Council meeting, a budget amendment was proposed by Councilwoman Cook and Councilman Lazard to use $100,000 of the taxpayers’ money to conduct the investigation. Mayor-President Guillory stated that significant manpower was dedicated to completing the Council’s request and that the responses to their questions had been sent the previous week. Hard copies were also brought to the meeting. He stated that he was confident in the councilmembers’ abilities to analyze the document in order to save the taxpayers the great expense of an investigation that would only lead to a reproduction of the responses provided. He asked that the Council would review the documents before making their decision. Councilwoman Cook responded by saying that they would move forward with the audit and have the investigative team analyze the documents. Councilman Naquin informed the Administration that the auditor was going to review only the information provided in the response for the time being. The ordinance to amend the budget and begin the investigation was passed.https://video.ibm.com/recorded/132127613 (starts at 2:28:30)