June 13, 2007
By Theresa Schmidt
Right after convening the special meeting, drainage board members went behind closed doors with their attorney. After about 30 minutes they reopened the meeting to the public and voted to suspend supervisor Brian Benoit, and employees Gerald Jones and Dana Aucoin from their jobs until allegations are resolved. The men won't be paid while suspended.
Benoit, Jones and Aucoin were arrested after a sheriff's department investigation concluded the district's employees and equipment had been illegally used on private property. Drainage Board President George Wilkinson says they are anxious to move forward and will hire temporary or interim workers. "We're going to be hiring some more employees, and whenever we get those employees then we're going to start back on our full schedule of work. We will hire them with the understanding that if and when our other employees are cleared, then they will come back to work and replace the temporary employees."
Drainage is a big problem in the area and Wilkinson admits the public has a right to be upset about what the investigation seems to have found. "They're justifiably upset because from all appearances public monies were wasted, or not used wisely, and the public has a right to be upset."
For now the Calcasieu Police Jury is providing management help to the drainage district. Public Works Operations Manager Allen Wainwright says they've made changes to assure more accountability. "We've made quite a few changes to policies, purchasing policies, work order policies, the basics, and we're making good progress."
One of the first changes was to replace removable magnetic logo's on some equipment with permanent stickers, as required by state law.
The board plans to re-visit the situation involving the suspended employees' each month. Right now, the only employees they have are the two men who blew the whistle on alleged illegal activity and the board secretary.
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