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Mayor wants to shelve stormwater fee proposal as metro council support evaporates

3 months 2 weeks 4 days ago Thursday, October 20 2022 Oct 20, 2022 October 20, 2022 4:00 PM October 20, 2022 in News
Source: WBRZ

UPDATE: Councilmember Laurie Adams filed an emergency item Monday, Oct. 24 seeking to repeal the Stormwater Public Utility District, which would effectively kill the mayor's proposed stormwater plan. 

Read Adams' statement below.

"This item was pass by the Council after receiving misleading public statements from the administration and parish attorney. In my mind, the Stormwater Utility District is fruit of the poisonous tree. We need to repeal the district and open up transparent conversations with the residents of East Baton Rouge Parish regarding non-compliance with the Clean Water Act, maintenance of our stormwater sewer system, and the efficient use of our financial resources."

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BATON ROUGE - Mayor Sharon Weston Broome wants to withdraw her office's proposal for a new stormwater utility fee amid confusion over an NDA and dwindling support from East Baton Rouge councilmembers.

The mayor released a statement Tuesday night admitting she was "misinformed" about the details surrounding the non-disclosure agreement, which her office had framed as an agreement involving federal regulators for over a week.

WATCH: Mayor says she was "misinformed" about stormwater NDA; see more at 6:00, 9:00 and 10:00

That all changed Tuesday after Congressman Garret Graves fielded a phone call from federal officials who told him there was no such agreement between the city-parish and the feds. The revelation led to an admission from the mayor's office that there was no NDA involving any federal agency and that there was no imminent deadline for approving the stormwater plan, pinning the confusion on parish attorneys.

"As the parish's chief legal counsel, we rely on the information they provide regarding the details of the NDA and its parties," Broome said in a statement. "Unfortunately, an assessment of that information and that which has come to light today, has led me to the conclusion that I was misinformed regarding the federal involvement related to the NDA."

However, just because Broome requested to remove the item from the agenda, doesn't mean it will be.

"Whether I want it or not, it's a properly introduced item. We are going to have a public hearing and a vote is going to occur. I would think it would be a vote to delete," said council member Brandon Noel.

He says he and other council members don't like how the whole issue is being framed by Broome's office.

"There was a comment made last night [about] confusion and all parties are responsible including the council. I take issue with that significantly because we were not."

Noel says they weren't confused, but like the mayor-- just misinformed. Now the council is looking to find out where that misinformation came from.

"I will tell you that myself and other council people are actually looking into how that originated who knew what when."

Then they will proceed from there.

"Action can be taken from the mayor's office on her appointees and from our office with the parish attorney's office, so those discussions are going to continue happening and we're going to get to the bottom of it."

On Wednesday, parish officials said the remaining public meetings related to the stormwater proposal have been canceled. The metro council is still expected to discuss the proposal at its public meeting on Oct. 26, though it's unclear whether it will still go to a vote.

As of Wednesday, more than half of East Baton Rouge's councilmembers have told WBRZ they would vote against the stormwater plan. Look below to see their responses so far. 

District 1: Brandon Noel - No

District 2: Chauna Banks - No

District 3: Rowdy Gaudet - No

District 4: Aaron Moak - No

District 5: Darryl Hurst - 

District 6: Cleve Dunn - 

District 7: LaMont Cole - 

District 8: Denise Amoroso - No

District 9: Dwight Hudson - No

District 10: Carolyn Coleman - 

District 11: Laurie Adams - No

District 12: Jennifer Racca - No

Read the full statement from the mayor's office below.

Today, a series of events have unfolded regarding the City-Parish effort to address compliance issues related to stormwater management. This issue at hand is more complex than a tweet or sound bite.

The truth of the matter is, this is a decades old issue that my administration has sought to resolve. However, we can’t do this alone. The compliance and legal components are addressed in consultation with the Parish Attorney’s office.

My administration has been under their advisement on how to negotiate settlements with the federal government, including the recommendation to enter into a non-disclosure agreement.

As the parish's chief legal counsel, we rely on the information they provide regarding the details of the NDA and its parties.

Unfortunately, an assessment of that information and that which has come to light today, has led me to the conclusion that I was misinformed regarding the federal involvement related to the NDA.

I want the citizens of Baton Rouge to know that my first option is never to place undue financial burden on them or to be less than transparent.

To that end, I am asking that this matter be removed from the council agenda until we obtain the full facts and that the metropolitan council join me in seeking answers from the parish attorney’s office and staff of the Office of the Mayor-President.

I want to ensure you I have always, and will remain committed to be, honest, open and transparent with the public on any matter relating to City-Parish government.

The mayor was not available for an interview Wednesday. WBRZ also reached out to the parish attorney for comment, but they didn't offer an explanation.

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