TANGIPAHOA PARISH, LA (WVUE) - Council members had a lot of tough questions Thursday after a FOX 8 investigation. We uncovered that a local parish is now part of a federal investigation, and taxpayers could be on the hook for millions of dollars in fines.
The Tangipahoa Parish Council called a special meeting Thursday night to discuss the information we uncovered.
"I'm just stunned," said Councilman Ronnie Bankston.
"If you're in constant contact with DEQ, who dropped the ball?" asked Councilman Carlo Bruno.
At least 650,000 pounds of shredded tires now sit in a parish landfill, tire waste that the state says is being stockpiled illegally. The state DEQ says without their approval, the tires have been stored there since at least Jan. 1 of this year, and the parish could be fined nearly $33,000 for each day they're in violation of that law. That's nearly $4 million that the parish could be fined.
"We're under mandate by DEQ to remove these excess tires at the penalty of $32,500 a day based on some of the information we got," said Councilman Greg Varnado. "We don't know if that's going to be accurate or not, or if they're just going to blow that off and that's really not going to be a big deal for them. We don't know. But we'd like some answers to those questions."
But the story doesn't stop there. FOX 8 uncovered documents that parish council members had never seen before showing that the state may have overpaid a government contractor nearly $3.5 million to bring those old tires to the landfill. That contractor is now being sued by the state. That lawsuit alleges the parish is partly to blame for the overpayment due to poor record keeping. The parish has now hired attorney Beau Brock.
"It's taxpayer money, and we take it seriously, and we need to answer those questions for the parish," Brock said.
Now the parish is not only facing the possibility of millions in state fines, it's also involved in a federal probe.
After our investigation, one of the council members resigned from the landfill committee, saying he was never presented with critical documentation about the DEQ violations and is embarrassed by what happened without his knowledge.
The council is also demanding that the administration provide all documentation relating to the landfill and tire shredding program.