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INVESTIGATIVE UNIT: Records expose lack of transparency tied to ill-fated stormwater plan

1 month 1 week 5 days ago Monday, October 24 2022 Oct 24, 2022 October 24, 2022 11:00 PM October 24, 2022 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE- Some public records released by the East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney's Office were totally blacked out when the WBRZ Investigative Unit combed through them Tuesday.

Those records included communication between parties tied to the Stormwater Utility Fee after Mayor Sharon Weston Broome announced she wanted it pulled from the Metro Council agenda. She does not have that authority, and the council is scheduled to take up the matter for the first public hearing of its kind since the plan was pulled last week.

Watch this two-part WBRZ investigation:

Part 1: Nakamoto reports on hidden emails from parish attorney

Part 2: Brittany Weiss learns of new claim from city hall over federal deadline

The mayor's office spoke with 2 On Your Side Tuesday and doubled down on the deadline that the City-Parish says it's under to get the Stormwater Utility Fee organized with a dedicated funding source by or around January 15. The date is still not entirely clear because the mayor's office hasn't provided any paperwork.

East Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman Laurie Adams said she had a meeting with Parish Attorney Andy Dotson Monday.

"I learned more yesterday than I have to date, but it still feels like the NDA [non-disclosure agreement] hangs over our discussions and that's concerning," Adams said.

Adams and others have voiced frustration with Dotson representing the council but refusing to answer certain questions claiming he can't due to a non-disclosure agreement.

Wednesday, Councilman Cleve Dunn filed an emergency item to discuss Dotson's future as the parish attorney. 

"I do have concerns that the Metro Council's attorney would sign an NDA that would preclude him from telling me as a Metro Council member and other Metro Council members where we are in a case we are a party to," Adams said.

Adams said if she were to vote today, she would vote to remove Dotson and said other council members are also discussing it. However, any change at the parish attorney's office would require specific procedures. Dotson would need to be notified about the council's intent to dismiss and there would have to be meetings before any votes. Adams said any process would be transparent, unlike the Stormwater Utility Fee.

"This morning I've been considering should we pass an ordinance that the parish attorney or city parish employees are precluded from signing an NDA without approval from the council or disclosure to the council," Adams said. "We will have to take measures to make sure this never happens again. The people deserve that from us."

The council is scheduled to take up the matter Wednesday, Oct. 26.

The council can either defer, delete or deny the proposal. If it's deferred, it will be heard at a later date. If it's deleted, it won't be voted on at Wednesday's meeting after a public hearing. If denied, it will effectively terminate the proposal for the time being. The Stormwater Utility Fee would be prohibited from going before the council for at least a year.

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