Friday, September 19, 2008

Typical Louisiana Politicians

At least 15,000 homes and businesses in Terrebonne parish remain damaged, parts of the area are still flooded, and now the community's top emergency response official is under investigation. And part of it has to do with an LSU game, and whether a leading parish employee should have been there at all.

Video: Watch the Story When the waters in Terrebonne Parish began to rise last weekend, the man in charge of emergency operations for the area was Jerry Richard. On Saturday, The Houma Courier photographed Richard on a Terrebonne Sheriff’s Search and Rescue vehicle helping to evacuate his wife from their home. But later that day, according to Parish President Michel Claudet, Richard spent the evening at the LSU football game, watching the Tigers beat North Texas University.
"It's ridiculous absolutely ridiculous," said Mark Belanger, a resident of Houma.

Belanger and his neighbor Martin St. Romain are still trying to clean up Ike's mess in their community, and they say the head of the parish's emergency response team should never have been given the day off.

"Usually, when I take a day off, it’s when nothing is going on with my business," said St. Romain.

But according Terrebonne Sheriff Vernon Bourgeois, Richard was technically no longer the emergency operations director. Parish President Claudet gave the title to the sheriff back on September 2, the day after Gustav whipped through Louisiana.

"He knew that I knew the operations and with security and reporting after the fact with FEMA and all that," said Bourgeois.

It's experience the Sheriff says Richard does not have.

"He's never done it," said Bourgeois. "He just took office on January 14th."

So Richard became the assistant to Bourgeois's assistant, and the sheriff says he was the one who approved Richard's time off.

"About 20 days straight that Jerry has worked. He was a little tired, a little fatigued, and it was on the Friday, I do believe, I told him to take the next day off to get some rest and to come back to work the following day," said Bourgeois. "And where he went, I don't knowThat's his business on his day off."

But it's creating enough of a concern for Claudet, who on Thursday suspended Richard for one week without pay.

"It also involves other extenuating circumstances concerning certain things that have to do with parish policies," said Claudet.

While Claudet would not go into further detail, he says he hopes to have the findings of the investigation released by the end of next week.

Meanwhile, The Houma Courier is reported Thursday evening Richard used his parish issued work vehicle to travel to the LSU game in Baton Rouge.

Eyewitness News made several attempts to contact Richard, but our calls were never returned. Claudet says so far the parish has found no wrong doing, and adds Richard has done an excellent job in the few months that he has been emergency operations director.

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