April 27, 2007
By Theresa Schmidt
Have your tax dollars been wasted? Two employees of the Ward 1 Drainage Board in Moss Bluff say yes. They say they are blowing the whistle on alleged criminal wrongdoing involving public equipment, employees and resources. The allegations are set forth in a lawsuit.
According to the suit filed in State District Court, drainage board employees Carl Patterson and John Peloquin have been coerced into doing work on private property with drainage board equipment and resources and in the process suffered threats, intimidation and retaliation from the drainage foreman in the process.
Their attorney Maurice Tynes says the workers want the illegal activity brought to light and stopped. Says Tynes, "In the last year or so in particular there's been an enormous amount of private work done with drainage board public assets, personnel and equipment, I'm going to say a rough estimate, from what I know so far, something in the range of $150,000 and $200,000 has been given to one particular piece of private property. In addition there's been an awful lot of public payroll fraud with people drawing money on the payroll when they weren't working for the drainage board at the time. They were either doing private work or they were simply home or fishing or whatever."
The employees have taken pictures they say document the use of drainage board equipment and resources on private property. As well, there are numerous other allegations such as drinking beer on the job. Tynes says, "Their motive is simply to reform the corrupt activities of the drainage board. They are terribly nervous. They're given to waking up in the middle of the night. They feel horrible about all this because too much work is not being done that's public work because it's being allocated to private purposes."
The suit alleges that drainage materials paid for with tax dollars have been used on private property owned by Police Juror Don Manuel, something he denies.
Manuel says no work using drainage equipment has ever been performed on his private property. Manuel says he'll comment further after having more time to review the allegations.
Among other things the suit seeks to require the drainage board to put the public insignia on all public equipment as required by law-- so use on private property can be easily spotted.
Tynes has provided the suit to the Calcasieu Sheriff's Department, District Attorney and Parish officials. A spokesman for the sheriff's department says they will start an investigation if parish officials decide to file a criminal complaint.
Parish officials say when it comes to criminal allegations, they normally ask law enforcement officials to investigate--and will do so in this case.