Politics and FEMA housing? Politician's daughter has sought-after mobile home
DENHAM SPRINGS- There are allegations of politics playing into who gets into FEMA Mobile Housing Units.
To date, only 16 people have MHU's - manufactured housing units - in Livingston Parish. One of the first people to get one was the daughter of Parish President Layton Ricks.
Some parish employees questioned the swift issuing of a mobile home to Ricks' daughter and contacted the Investigative Unit. Worried they could lose their jobs if they spoke on TV, most asked to remain unidentified but expressed frustration since many in Livingston Parish lost possessions. Many said the MHU issue did not seem fair.
Bernie Deschamp lives near Ricks' daughter on Sharon Street in Denham Springs. The retired US Marshal lost everything during Katrina and watched the house he built after the storm flood nearly eleven years after the hurricane.
"When I came out that morning and saw the water coming down the street similar to how it did during Katrina, I told my wife let's go," Deschamp recalled.
Tuesday, as he continued cleaning up his post-Katrina flooded home, he questioned the issuing of the MHU.
"If they used their political influence for that, then, shame on them," Deshamp said.
According to parish tax data, the property on Sharon Street is registered to Layci Ricks. Initially, President Layton Ricks said he'd be willing to do an interview. But, after being told what the story was about, he forwarded questions to the parish OEP director instead. Though, Ricks revealed on the phone, his home flooded and he doesn't have a trailer. Ricks added, of the two children he has, his other child also flooded and she doesn't have a trailer.
Layci Ricks' husband is a police officer. OEP Director Mark Harrell said priority is given to first responders.
"I'm not saying the others are not. But first responders will always be my priority," Harrell said. He clarified, the family was moved to the top of the list after also meeting other necessary requirements. Harrell promised it had nothing to do with this being Ricks' family.
Ricks' husband answered the door at the property Tuesday and said he couldn't talk about the situation.
But, for people like Deschamp who is retired law enforcement and is familiar with flood recovery, he has real questions about the decision process.
"It's kind of like insider trading," Deschamp said. "They are going to use that information to get a jump on everybody else."
Deschamp wants to see all flood victims treated the same.
"Everybody should be on the same level playing field," Deschamp said. "I can't say if they were able to call and get help before me or before my neighborhood, but if they go about it like everybody else I don't have a problem with it... just keep it an even playing field."
Currently, there are nearly 1,400 applicants across the region trying to get mobile housing units. As of Tuesday, there are only 36 people living in a manufactured housing unit.