Council votes to keep questionable $1.6 million land lease to councilwoman's nephew

Council votes to keep questionable $1.6 million land lease to councilwoman's nephew

ST. CHARLES PARISH, LA (WVUE) - On Monday, a parish council voted to table an ordinance and keep a land lease that will net a fellow council person's nephew $1.6 million over 30 years.

FOX 8 questioned St. Charles Parish Councilwoman Mary Clulee about the lease two weeks ago. Clulee sold nearly 300 acres of marshland to her nephew for $100 plus "valuable consideration" just four days before the council approved the lease.

During an interview, Clulee said the property is "worth what someone will pay for it" but would not provide an actual amount.

The parish will lease 32 acres of Clulee's nephew's marshland near Boutte for a boat launch for $54,000 a year for the next 30 years. The council had been expected to cancel the lease after the Parish President Larry Cochran said he found other options.

The parish has not assessed the value of the land in question, despite residents and a councilman saying to lease the land for one year is more than what the property is worth.

The ordinance to cancel the ordinance can be brought to the council again.

However, the previous ordinance approved by the council on August 28th states there must be a 60 day notification to the property owner if the parish wishes to cancel the lease. That means Clulee's nephew will receive at least $9000 even if the lease is canceled at a later date.

Tulane Law Professor Joel Friedman believes Clulee possibly violated state ethics laws for the "sweetheart deal" to nephew.

"She knew about this potential business arrangement that she, in fact, had been working on herself while she owned the land that was under discussion," Friedman said. "But before the deal was consummated, she made the transfer. To a reasonable person, that suggests that the purpose and the sole purpose for this alleged transfer of ownership was not to transfer ownership, it was to avoid the ethics obligations."

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