Posted: Jul 1, 2011 9:45 PM by Ashley Rodrigue
Updated: Jul 1, 2011 9:45 PM
BATON ROUGE- Findings by News 2 launched a police investigation into a former Baton Rouge Police Department helicopter hangar at Metro Airport. The News 2 investigation uncovered something inside the hangar that shouldn't be there.
In less than 24 hours after being told about it by News 2, the police chief launched an investigation.
The News 2 investigation became a lot clearer on exactly what was inside that hangar at the Baton Rouge Metro Airport when the police department moved out.
A private plane, sitting among empty desks and left-behind boxes, was found inside a hangar occupied by Baton Rouge Police for the past two years.
The problem with that? It shouldn't be there.
The Airport Commission says everything in this hangar, leased solely by BRPD, is BRPD's responsibility. But paperwork on the plane, says it's not BRPD's.
Registration with the FAA comes back to an LLC in Baton Rouge. The names on that business are State Senator Rob Marionneaux and Baton Rouge attorney Sam Ward.
When News 2 asked why a private plane was being housed in a publicly-paid for building, Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne White started an internal investigation.
He said, "We can't allow a privately owned plane to be hangered in a hangar or a facility that is being paid for with taxpayer money."
The chief found the plane ended up here last October because of a favor by former Chief Jeff LeDuff, but is still here, he says, because of an oversight at your expense.
"The previous chief had given the owner permission to hangar his plane there because of engine difficulties that he had," said White, "So it was the previous chief's assertion to me on the phone today, that this was just for a short period of time until repairs could be made, until the plane was actually flyable, however there were no follow up inspections to ensure that that was done."
Marionneaux, nor Ward, have returned News 2's calls for comment on why the plane has stayed put. But Chief White says his department dropped the ball.
"I'm trying to build the public trust and then here we have a problem where we, here we are in the news again and we've let the public down by not exercising due diligence and being good stewards of the taxpayers money," he said.
And White says even though many of the details of the investigation have been uncovered, the case isn't closed.
"I am looking into doing a full investigation to find out who was actually involved, how long the plane had been hangered in a public facility and to hold those people responsible," said White.
Just how much does it cost to store a single engine Cessna in a private hangar space at the airport? Take a look at the numbers that we got today from an operator at the airport.
The quote was $435 each month if you had a one year lease. That would mean $5,100 for a full year. If the space was leased by the day, the rate is much higher, $65 each day. In the case uncovered by News 2, there were 242 days from the beginning of November, last year, to the end of June, this year. That would mean a bill of $15,730 for that leased time.
The police chief says Marionneaux was asked to move the plane by 2 p.m. Friday. It took off from Baton Rouge Metro just after 7 p.m.