June 12, 2007
By Theresa Schmidt
Twentyone year old Justin Benoit was arrested and booked on two counts of intimidation of a witness and one count of threatening a public official. He's the son of drainage supervisor Brian Benoit booked on numerous charges earlier. Cpl. Randy Benevage says the younger Benoit allegedly went to the drainage office after his father was arrested. Benevage got a call from one of the two employees who blew the whistle on alleged illegal work. "He told me that Justin had just come in to the office and threatened to shoot them and also shoot the secretary and they felt in danger for their lives and at that point we asked them to come to the office and secure the district shop out there."
The Benoit's, along with two other suspects, Gerald Jones and Dana Aucoin, have been released on bond and the report submitted to the DA's office. Benevage says the most serious of the allegations of misuse of drainage resources and employees involves improvements to a road through Woodbrook property. "Roughly $100,000 of work that was done including the use of district equipment, the manpower and fuel costs and of course maintenance. The road in length is approximately a mile, mile and a half and from what we gathered through the investigation they worked on it a couple of months."
Woodbrook president and treasurer Gibson Barham could not be reached for comment. However, Police Juror Don Manuel, who represents the area, questions whether the road improvements would really have been worth $100,000. "It might have been exaggerated a little bit but we won't know that until all of the facts come out and see what really did happen."
Manuel expects efforts underway by the police jury to help put in place more checks and balances to provide greater accountability of drainage resources in the future.
The drainage board meets in special session at 6 p.m. tomorrow. The Calcasieu DA's office represents the board in civil matters, so it's not clear whether the DA's office will handle the criminal allegations.