Mayor admits there's no NDA with feds tied to stormwater proposal
BATON ROUGE - More than a week after city officials claimed federal regulators asked East Baton Rouge leaders to sign a non-disclosure agreement related to the parish's new stormwater proposal, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome admits no such agreement ever existed.
The admission came Tuesday after Congressman Garret Graves said members of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency refuted the claims that the agency asked city-parish leaders to sign an NDA.
EPA: “No deadline in place required by EPA that would force the new tax to be imposed by the parish by the end of the month” (2/2)— Rep. Garret Graves (@RepGarretGraves) October 18, 2022
Some members of the metro council also reported last week they were asked to sign an NDA but refused.
The mayor's office released the following statement Tuesday clarifying that there was no federal NDA, adding there was only an agreement drafted by the city-parish.
"The City-Parish is working to remain in compliance with our Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ) Louisiana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (LPDES) Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) Permit. This effort includes establishing a robust stormwater plan of improvements, maintenance, and monitoring. Our current deadline for providing a plan to achieve compliance with our permit and address the findings of the MS4 audit is the first quarter of 2023.
The non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a City-Parish drafted agreement. The NDA is signed by City-Parish staff and City-Parish consultants to protect discussions regarding our stormwater permit and the City-Parish's historic shortcomings in the area of stormwater compliance. No state or federal governmental agency has required the City-Parish to execute a non-disclosure agreement or confidentiality agreement as it pertains to stormwater compliance.
However, as is standard practice, settlement discussions that may lead to court action should remain confidential for the benefit of all parties.
There is no NDA regarding the stormwater proposal. There is an NDA with the Parish Attorney concerning our conversations with the Justice Department regarding our MS4 audit. Also, while there is no deadline regarding our stormwater proposal, there is a deadline from the Justice Department to submit our plan for MS4 permit compliance."
As of Tuesday afternoon, two of EBR's 12 councilmembers, Dwight Hudson and Jen Racca, say they'll be against the plan when it goes up for a vote at the Metro Council meeting on Oct. 26. Councilman Aaron Moak also told WBRZ on Monday that, as it stands, he does not plan to vote for the plan.
"Right now, I just can't pass this. I can't vote for this right now. I want to have an input from the public. I want to hear from everyone," Moak said.
The mayor introduced the proposal earlier this month, saying the plan was necessary to bolster the city's drainage and to avoid federal interference. Before the plan goes to a council vote next week, metro councilmembers are hosting a series of public meetings where residents can voice their opinions.
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