Zurik: Plaquemines Parish sues former director over misuse of pu - FOX 8, WVUE, fox8live.com, weather, app, news, saints

Zurik: Plaquemines Parish sues former director over misuse of public resources

File photo of Scott Lott, former Plaquemines Parish director of operations File photo of Scott Lott, former Plaquemines Parish director of operations
Photos show kitcchen equipment that was allegedly transported from an old school building to a private business. Photos show kitcchen equipment that was allegedly transported from an old school building to a private business.
BELLE CHASSE, LA (WVUE) -

Pictures of kitchen equipment, paid for with FEMA money - federal money - help tell this story.

"That's what it is," says former interim parish president Ed Theriot. "That's why we call it a sweetheart deal. It's self-dealing."

The equipment sat, for a time, inside a state-owned building, the former Belle Chasse State School, operated by a local parish government. But Plaquemines Parish officials say some of this equipment disappeared.

Theriot calls it the result of someone in parish government, "using taxpayers' money on private property."

From 2007 to 2014, Scott Lott served as director of operations for Plaquemines Parish. According to the former interim parish president, Lott instructed parish employees to move some of that equipment. They allegedly loaded some of it on parish trucks and delivered it to his family business, a local bakery.

"FEMA paid for all that equipment, to redo those buildings there," Theriot says. But instead, he tells us, "They went to Mr. Lott's son's bakery, Royal Bakery."

Theriot says he hasn't been to the bakery personally, but has seen photos of the equipment taken there. "Then we've got affidavits of the workers that they were told, 'load these boxes, bring them over,'" he says.

In a lawsuit filed against Lott, the parish accuses him of fraud and misuse and abuse of public funds. 

The parish has a signed affidavit by one employee, Stanley Wallace, who says Lott instructed employees to move the kitchen equipment to his house. And Lott said the equipment would then be moved to the bakery.

"Probably $150,000 went to the royal bakery," Theriot claims.

His is one of four lawsuits filed by parish government about the potential misuse of public funds.

"Every day we uncover something," Theriot said in a November 2016 interview.

Through a series of public records requests, we uncovered one document that shows repair work done to hundreds of private streets. The parish government believes the work was paid for with public money.

"We lost track [of] how many we got," he says, "hundreds of them."

We interviewed Robert Jackson, a foreman and supervisor in Plaquemines Parish for eight years. We asked him whether his crews did work on a lot of private property.

"On a lot of private property," he says. "Wasn't supposed to."

We ask if any of this work on private property justified public expense. "Not to my knowledge," he answers.

The parish filed another lawsuit, against Scott Lott and Emmet Gue Buras, a former supervisor in the public works department. It alleges they directed parish work crews to perform services, provide labor and public materials on approximately one hundred parcels of private property over an eight-year period.

"Some of our employees start coming in, and not requesting records but telling us, 'Look at this, I got a photograph while I was working there " Theriot recalls, "'We were told to go put some crushed asphalt on this road.' Said, 'so what?' 'well it's a private road.' 'but who told you to do it?' 'Scott Lott, Gue Buras.' And they start coming in, coming in and coming in."

Plaquemines Parish is also suing its former public works director, Byron Williams. The lawsuit alleges Williams signed off on invoices for companies owned by his family members.

"He was writing purchase orders for his own company," Theriot says, "signing them to get paid for all the sand in the parish, while getting paid as a director of public service."

The suits are civil, not criminal. Theriot told us he hopes other law enforcement authorities get interested and involved.

"As elected officials, our responsibility [is to] try to recoup money," Theriot says.

The attorney for Lott and Buras accuses Theriot of defamation and malicious prosecution. But the former interim parish president insists he has witnesses and proof that public resources were used to benefit these former public employees.

Copyright 2017 WVUE. All rights reserved.

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