Saturday, September 17, 2005

Louisiana Corruption: Senior officials in Louisiana's emergency planning agency Indicted Before Katrina Hit

From the Los Angeles Times (September 17, 2005, National News) By Ken Silverstein and Josh Meyer, Times Staff Writers:
Louisiana Officials Indicted Before Katrina Hit

WASHINGTON — Senior officials in Louisiana's emergency planning agency already were awaiting trial over allegations stemming from a federal investigation into waste, mismanagement and missing funds when Hurricane Katrina struck.

U.S. officials are still trying to track $60 million in unaccounted for FEMA funds funneled to the state from the Federal Emergency Management Agency dating back to 1998.

The problems are acute, because they involve the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, the agency that will administer billions in federal aid to victims of Katrina. Federal Homeland Security officials announced they would send 30 investigators and auditors to the Gulf Coast to ensure relief funds were properly spent.

FEMA has demanded back $30.4 million paid into that program and others, including a program to buy out flood-prone homeowners. As much as $30 million in additional unaccounted for spending also is under review in audits that have not yet been released, according to a FEMA official.

About $2.8 million of the refund sought by FEMA went to 'consultant' fees. Most of that money went to Aegis Innovative Systems, a Baton Rouge firm hired by many parishes to administer the flood buyout program. Aegis owners include Mark Howard, a former official at the Louisiana agency. State Sen. Reggie Dupre said it appeared that parishes employing Aegis were especially successful in winning money from the state emergency preparedness agency.
"It smells like a horrible brother-in-law deal to me, " he said in a phone interview. An Aegis attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

UPDATE here.