Lafayette City Council members are pushing Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s administration for answers and documents related to a handful of challenged local government projects involving the same construction contractor.
The probe comes as Guillory’s administration faces a war on multiple fronts over its cavalier approach to drainage projects, several of which have landed the administration in court, where questions have repeatedly been raised about its projects’ merits and the legitimacy of its processes for building them.
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Most recently, the Guillory administration’s reliance on Rigid Constructors for its clandestine removal of the Cypress Island Swamp spoil banks in St. Martin Parish came under fire in a report by the Current for potentially violating public bid law by changing a $360,000 as-needed excavation contract to encompass the $3.7 million spoil banks removal without rebidding the contract.
“If you materially change the original scope of the contract, then you can’t just amend it like that and be in compliance with the bid law. You have to go out and re-bid it,” former Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera told the Current.
“And certainly going from $300,000 or $400,000 to $3 (million) or $4 million would be a material change in the contract. So it sounds to me like they’re in violation of the bid law.”
Lafayette Consolidated Government also faces a lawsuit over the spoil banks removal from St. Martin Parish, which has argued that LCG violated local, state and potentially federal regulations by removing the spoil banks without permits from St. Martin Parish and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. LCG says the permits were not needed for the project.
Guillory’s administration has also been taken to court over a pair of land grabs for detention pond projects, neither of which has seen any success for LCG in its attempts to defend the expropriations and the detention pond projects.
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The legal contentions, and the administration’s consistent reliance on Rigid Constructors for the challenged projects, led the City Council Chair Nanette Cook and Councilman Glenn Lazard to deliver a list of 18 questions and requests for documents from the administration at Tuesday’s council meeting. A copy of that list is available at the bottom of this report.
“I don’t expect that answer from the administration at this point on this because these are a lot of questions,” City Council Chair Nanette Cook said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “What I am going to ask is that we get a response in maybe two weeks, if that’s okay.”
Guillory had left Tuesday’s council meeting by the time the issue was raised at around 9:30 p.m. LCG CAO Cydra Wingerter took the questions on his behalf but left quickly as the meeting ended after a testy exchange with Cook over the issue’s timing.
The council is expecting to address the questions and the administration’s responses at its July 5 meeting.
The inquiry could be the first step in a potential formal investigation by the City Council into the Guillory administration’s projects and its dealings with Rigid Constructors, given the number of documents and specificity of the council’s request.
Asked about the potential for a formal investigation by the council, LCG spokesperson Jamie Angelle said Wednesday the administration is confident its dealings have been lawful.
“We are confident that everything we did was within the boundaries of the law. Obviously, we’re going to continue to pursue (legally challenged projects) through the appeals process,” he said. “We have been as transparent as we can be, and we’ll continue to do so. So, if the council has questions. We’ll be happy to answer.”