Teams examine computers, feds join flood elevation probe
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A current Louisiana government worker has been placed on leave and a former state employee is being investigated as part of an on-going probe into Louisiana's flood-elevation program, Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater said Thursday.
Four different agencies including the Louisiana Inspector General and the Federal Homeland Security Inspector General have now joined the probe.
The allegations became public last week when two former state contract workers presented documents to the 9NEWS I-TEAM and gave interviews about their experiences in working with the program.
Rainwater says teams of internal auditors are now visiting four state office buildings where documents related to the program are housed.
"They're going through every computer of anyone who may have had access to the information," Rainwater said.
The offices include one in Erath, one in New Orleans, and two in Baton Rouge.
Wednesday afternoon, Department of Community Development team leader Courage Idusuyi was placed on leave with pay, state officials said. Investigators say Idusuyi is accused of taking cash and jewelry from contractors.
"There were several allegations made against this particular employee and I did my own conversations with the employee and the management staff and I made the decision myself," Rainwater said.
Rainwater said Idusuyi is accused of taking cash and jewelry from contractors in exchange for receiving a list of homeowners who were eligible for federal funding to have their homes elevated above flood-stage.
"Taking money for a list, basically," Rainwater said.
Rainwater says distributing such a list could be a violation of the federal Stafford Act.
"Obviously, I want to believe the employee is innocent but I can't take that chance," he said. "We have to protect the integrity of the program and the state and taxpayers. So, we put him on administrative leave until we clear his name."
A former state employee, Kurt Wiltshire, is accused of helping sell the list, state officials said. Rainwater said Wiltshire's computer was been seized and is being examined.
Neither Wiltshire or Idusuyi could be reached for comment Thursday.
The whistle blowers in this case, Christy Weiser and Thomas Pierson, are in legal hot water themselves. They are accused of stealing the documents (or copies of the documents) from the state. The documents, which the whistle blowers showed to the 9NEWS I-TEAM, appear to show certain contractors agreeing to one price to elevate homes but, in some cases, later increasing the price they submitted for reimbursement. The whistle blowers also showed the I-TEAM a copy of a disc they say contained the homeowner information and was being sold to contractors for up to $10,000 per disc.
The state wants a federal judge to force the whistle blowers to give the documents back. Another hearing on that is set for next Wednesday. Rainwater says it will be up to the judge to decide if the actions of the whistle blowers are right or wrong.
"But, I will tell you this," he said. "What we did do is take the information they provided. Some of it may be true, some of it may not be. But, the piece that is true, that's the piece I'm interested in because what it does is help us clean up our program and identify any issues or problems."
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