Tension between officials causes grant hold-up

Published: Mar. 9, 2011 at 8:20 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 16, 2011 at 7:30 AM CDT
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Sheriff Sid Gautreaux
Sheriff Sid Gautreaux

By David Spunt - bio | email

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Over $1 million in taxpayer money is being held up by what appears to be a political battle between the offices of Mayor-President Kip Holden and Sheriff Sid Gautreaux.

Gautreaux is fuming and claims Holden is holding up $1,251,849 in grant money that could be used for East Baton Rouge Parish. He is referring to the fiscal year 2009 and 2010 Louisiana Homeland Security Program grants.

The money is dished out by the state to each parish, where 25 percent goes to law enforcement and the other 75 percent goes to parish homeland security.

"It would certainly seem that there's some kind of problem here because every other parish in the state has complied with this and why we're not doing it, I don't know," Gautreaux said. "As soon as I get the paperwork in my office, I'll sign it and they can get it to GOHSEP and we can go forward with this."

Gautreaux said law enforcement uses the money for technology upgrades and equipment. The mayor and parish homeland security director are required to sign off on the money before it can be given out. Grant rules state the sheriff must also be involved.

According to Gautreaux, the mayor is being unreasonable because Holden has not given him the paperwork to sign, thus holding up the grant.

According to the state, every other parish signed their paperwork months ago. Holden declined to respond to the allegations. Chief Administrative Officer John Carpenter said he does not believe the sheriff has legal authority to sign off on the grant.

"Neither the mayor-president nor any departments of city-parish government have an issue with Sheriff Gautreaux or GOHSEP," Carpenter commented in a released statement. "The issue that we do have concerns a 'new' condition that was imposed for the first time on these grants that we have been receiving for years. This new condition purportedly requires the sheriff to sign off on these grants. This represents a change from the process that the last three mayor-presidents have followed. We have been told that this is a requirement for all parishes but we have information to the contrary. The city-parish is examining the legal authority for the change. We do not agree that this is a legal change in a long-standing process."

Officials with the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) said they want to resolve the dispute quickly.

"GOHSEP has been working with both East Baton Rouge Parish and the sheriff's office to get the sheriff's signature on this spending plan prior to this year's hurricane season," said Mark Cooper, director of GOHSEP.

Cooper's office added if East Baton Rouge officials do not hurry up and sign, they may lose the money all together.

"We're the most heavily-populated parish in the state. I don't think we'll ever go back from that and I think it's here to stay, so whether it's $100,000 or a million, it is still money that's much needed," Gautreaux explained.

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