Louisiana Probes Home Elevation Program ~
After picking up steam this year, Louisiana’s
program to elevate houses in flood-prone areas using state and
Federal funds has come in for significant public criticism.
Now, Louisiana TV station WAFB is reporting, the program is
facing an official state investigation
New allegations of forgery, wrongdoing in elevation
,” by Kiran Chawla). The New Orleans
Times-Picayune covers the story here (“State probes
home-elevation effort,” by David Hammer).
WAFB says two former state contract workers in the program
have filed a lawsuit alleging forgery and other misbehavior by
contractors and officials involved in the state program.
“The two whistle- blowers, Christy Weiser and Greg
Pierson, allege there were certain contractors submitting
forged bid documents, including charging homeowners for moving
gas lines when the particular residences had no gas
Pierson charged that one state official, who he did not
name, accessed confidential homeowner information from the
database of Louisiana’s “Road Home”
program for Hurricane Katrina recovery and sold the information
to private parties. And as a liaison between general contractor
The Shaw Group (who managed parts of the program for the state)
and independent contractors who elevate homes, Pierson said he
was ordered to funnel work to just one contractor.
Weiser and Pierson’s suit alleges that
“state officials got gifts to funnel lucrative home
elevation jobs to a specific contractor, sold confidential
homeowner information for profit and ordered program workers to
break the rules so preferred shoring companies would stay
‘happy and quiet,’” according to an
August 11 report in the Times-Picayune
Elevation grant workers allege corruption in
,” by David Hammer).
The state is analyzing some employee emails and has seized
one employee’s computer, the Times-Picayune reports.
But the paper says the state is also investigating
whistle-blowers Weiser and Pierson: “The state has
filed its own suit in federal court against Weiser and Greg
Pierson for taking program files and sharing them with the
WAFB reports, “Federal Judge James Brady issued a
temporary restraining order Wednesday preventing the
whistle-blowers from giving any more information to WAFB or any
other outlet. Brady has scheduled a hearing for Friday morning
to determine whether he will force the workers to return the
documents the state says they illegally obtained.”