Feds end one investigation, start another in Livingston Parish Hurricane Gustav cleanup

LIVINGSTON, LA (WAFB) - A federal investigation in Livingston Parish has ended without a single arrest. The investigation started back in 2009, when cleanup from Hurricane Gustav was stopped. The former parish president suspected work crews were removing more than storm debris.

With the parish now in the cleared on one issue, the new leadership says they could be closer to putting the debris debacle behind them.

"They've come to the conclusion that there was no wrongdoing and they're not pursuing a case against anybody," said current Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks.

Ricks says the federal government has wrapped up its investigation of alleged illegal activities during the cleanup of Hurricane Gustav, where some who held positions of authority were being looked at for making gains on during the cleanup process. While the book has closed on that case, another investigation has started.

Auditors from the U.S. Inspector General's office are doing some digging of their own.

"They're investigating whether FEMA violated its own rules and regulations. We know they did," Ricks said.

In the past, FEMA has said a lot of what was picked up following the hurricane was not eligible debris, meaning more than what the storm knocked down was collected. In some cases FEMA said contractors over billed the parish on what they collected. At the time the cleanup work was stopped, then parish leaders were given a bill for $62,000,000. That's money the parish does not have and so several firms that helped in removing debris have gone unpaid.

The parish is still in the process of appealing FEMA decision.

Auditors from the Inspector General's office will be looking at the paperwork of what crews cleaned up in Livingston Parish after the storm. Ricks says they will not be looking at numbers, or whether something was eligible or ineligible. He says he's told their investigation should not take long.

"If they find any violation that FEMA has done, the audit can stop at that point and go directly to the Inspector General and that's grounds for arbitration," Ricks said.

Ricks says he feels FEMA did violate their rules. In a perfect world, he's hoping FEMA would cut a check for what the parish is owed.

He says if the auditors find based solely on the paperwork that 100% of the work is payable that means IED, a company that did the majority of the clean up, would stand to collect 50 million. Alvin Fairburn and Associates would get around five million and another company, PEC, would collect about four million.

"And anybody that's against that - why would you be against Livingston Parish hopefully being able to get its money? Settle with all these guys and put this behind us."