News Briefs

Bond election set, Langlinais on the defensive and more


The city-parish council has scheduled a July 15 election for Lafayette residents to decide on an additional $215 million in bond authority for the city. The bonds will be sold based on existing revenue streams and don't require any increase in tax rates. If approved, the money will be used to fund road, drainage and recreation projects, the majority of which have already been promised to voters. Many of the projects are on the north side of Lafayette, including I-10 frontage roads and the extension of West Willow Street. Last week, the council added seven new projects costing $46 million to the list. The added projects include widening North University Avenue and widening Ambassador Caffery Parkway to East Broussard Road.

Because of skyrocketing construction costs and a handful of new projects that cropped up, the city has run out of money to fund any new major public works projects. At last week's council meeting, Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley stressed the election's critical role in allowing the city to continue to build roads. "If it fails, we are done," he said. "There is nothing else that can be done to construct these projects." Also on July 15, voters parish-wide will decide on three millage renewals dedicated to the library system, the parish health unit and drainage. ' Nathan Stubbs


What began two years ago as a request from the Iberia Parish Council to Iberia Parish President Will Langlinais for an accounting of all contracts executed by the administration has resulted in an opinion from 16th Judicial District Attorney Phil Haney that Langlinais may have violated the parish's Home Rule Charter, an offense potentially punishable by removal from office.

The initial request for contracts arose during the council's lawsuit against Mosquito Control Contractors Inc. ("Foggy Contract Breakdown," June 1, 2005). Council members were angered by the discovery of an undisclosed one-page contract signed by Langlinais and MCCI owner Glenn Stokes, which extended the agreement between MCCI and Iberia Parish Government for up to 10 years. (The parish settled the lawsuit with MCCI in August 2005.) But Council Finance Chair Bernard Broussard says Langlinais ignored council requests for other professional and service contracts, retainer fees and any other administrative spending records.

On April 5, Broussard and fellow councilmen Ray Fremin, Glenn Romero and Larry Richard sent a letter to Haney asking his office to audit and investigate Langlinais' "questionable contractual arrangements." Haney discovered a $750 monthly retainer for legal services with attorney Shane Romero, son of New Iberia state Rep. "Romo" Romero, dating back to October 2001. There are no records of council agreement or approval of the contract. In the opinion of the DA's office, the contract was in violation of the parish's Home Rule Charter, and the payments made by Langlinais' office to Romero were illegal and subject to sanctions that include repayment of expenditures and removal from office.

Langlinais initially responded that Broussard's motive was political, suggesting the councilman was planning a 2008 run for parish president. In an April 19 letter to Haney, Langlinais characterizes charter violations as accidental, pointing out that the council had previously entered into five-year contracts with Mosquito Control, which also violated the Home Rule Charter. "I believe," Langlinais wrote, "those were honest mistakes, had no implication of any criminal intent, and were entered into with good intentions, just as mine was with retainer fees."

Broussard's request for an investigation and audit has been forwarded to Legislative Auditor Steven Theriot. ' Mary Tutwiler


When both chambers of the Legislature took a day off work earlier this month to attend the funeral of the wife of Democratic Westwego Rep. John Alario, The Lake Charles American Press editorialized that the attendance of the funeral spoke volumes about priorities in the state. "We don't begrudge the lawmakers' show of respect for the Alario family," the editorial states. "But nearly three weeks ago, when Gov. Kathleen Blanco organized a tour of the damage caused by Hurricane Rita in Southwest Louisiana, only about 20 percent of the 143-member body found it important enough to attend."

The low turnout was partly blamed on the tour being scheduled on a Thursday and Friday, but the editorial board in Lake Charles didn't buy that excuse. "That's a shame," they wrote. "And the low turnout for the tour was a sign of disrespect for all in southwest Louisiana that have been adversely affected by Rita. The lawmakers' decisions appear to indicate they believe the death of a legislator's wife is more important than hundreds of families and countless businesses that have been left destitute by Hurricane Rita." ' Jeremy Alford


While contention over the city-parish council's refusal to rename a major Lafayette street after Martin Luther King Jr. simmers, the council voted unanimously last week to name its city bus station after Rosa Parks. Parks, who died last year, was dubbed by Congress the "mother of the modern day civil rights movement." In 1955, her refusal to give up her bus seat to a white passenger ' and her resulting arrest and trial ' helped propel Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery bus boycott to the forefront of the civil rights movement. Once built, Lafayette's new city bus station adjacent to the Jefferson Street underpass will be christened as the Rosa Parks Transportation Center. The facility will also house Lafayette's Transportation Department and other government offices. ' NS


Recycling in Lafayette could get as easy as taking out the trash. City residents will soon be able to dump all their recyclables into a single 64-gallon bin on wheels to cart out with their trash each week. The new recycling cart replaces the three stackable plastic bins used by recyclers to sort out glass, paper and aluminum items. Through the months of May and June, the Recycling Foundation will be replacing the old bins during regular pickup times. For more information, call 291-8529. ' NS**