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Column: Dear councils, hold Guillory accountable

Empty chairs in the council meeting room

The following is the text of remarks columnist Geoff Daily will give as public comment to the City and Parish councils at this Tuesday’s special joint meeting at 5:30 p.m., which is set to address the results of LCG’s comprehensive annual financial report. 

Dear City and Parish council members, today is a dark day for Lafayette. 

Millions of dollars of public money spent without contracts or required paperwork.

Numerous significant violations of local and state laws.

A complete disregard for the checks and balances meant to protect the public’s interests.

You now have some choices to make.

First, who do you believe? The auditor with more than three decades of experience and expertise, or the administration that has embroiled us in multiple lawsuits and investigations because of their unwillingness or inability to understand, respect, and follow the law.

I don’t envy any of you right now. The administration’s “new pace of government” has pushed us into very deep and treacherous waters. And none of us has the expertise to get back to shore safely. 

But Lafayette voters put you into office to protect our community’s interests. To hold the mayor-president accountable when necessary if his actions are working against our interests. 

So if you believe there is any truth to the auditor’s findings, you can no longer claim ignorance and continue giving this administration the benefit of the doubt. 

Which brings us to your second choice: What to do next?

Holding this administration accountable won’t be easy. It will take incredible strength and courage. Especially given its general unwillingness to respect any authority other than its own. 

But I believe each of you has the backbone to get this job done. That you’re good people led astray by the blind ambition of a politician clearly in over his head.

That’s why I come here today. Not to tear you down but to show you a path forward for how you can protect our community’s interests from being damaged further.

First, rescind the blanket authority you gave to the administration to acquire land for drainage projects without your approval. Clearly it can’t be trusted to make decisions without oversight. 

The audit report had 29 findings, 12 of which were repeated from the previous year. Among the notable findings:   

  • Lack of complete purchasing documentation 
  • No signed contract for a public works project totaling more than $1 million 
  • Overdraft of $19.8 million related to a grant for construction of detention ponds
  • Improper use of sales tax proceeds from 1961 and 1985 dedications
  • Various public bid law violations
  • Acquisition of certain property without an ordinance and at a price higher than appraised value
  • Improper use of ad valorem drainage millage proceeds
  • Noncompliance with reporting and monitoring requirements for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of the Treasury programs

Source: Louisiana Legislative Auditor

Second, put a halt to all major drainage projects and hire a third-party firm that reports directly to the councils to conduct a full audit of LCG’s drainage program. If any major drainage project actually has a real plan with clear benefits, it can be reapproved. But projects like the Homewood ponds should be put on hold until there’s clear evidence they’ll actually reduce flooding. 

Third, figure out how much the parish owes the city for the lost interest revenue on the $19.9 million overdraft, how much longer it will take for the parish to pay the city back, and agree on a payment plan to make the city whole. 

To the Parish Council: I don’t think any of you believe the parish should be freeloading on the city. So prove that’s true. The mayor-president’s actions have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars. You have the ability to make the city whole. So let’s get this done.

To the City Council, assuming the Parish Council agrees with what I just said: After we’re made whole, it’s time to start figuring out how to restructure how city money is used to float parish expenses. Because city money shouldn’t be put at risk like this for parish liabilities. 

If the Parish Council doesn’t agree, you need to prepare to take extreme measures to stop our city from continuing to be disenfranchised by our broken form of consolidated government. Like refusing to pass next year’s budget until the city’s finances are protected.  

I really am sorry that we’re all in this situation right now. This is not how I want to be spending my time. I take no pleasure in calling out this administration, and I have no personal vendettas against anyone in this room. I’m just a citizen concerned about his city and his parish’s future if these bad behaviors are allowed to continue unchecked.

It’s time to stop pretending the actions of this administration documented in this audit are normal or acceptable. It’s time for you all to do the jobs you were elected to do. To prove that you are the kind of people I know you to be. People who care about this city and this parish, who are good and honest, and who are willing to fight to protect our future.