BATON ROUGE (CNS)—In anticipation of Hurricane Isaac a year ago, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP) purchased 33.9 million pounds of ice at a cost of more than $7.1 million, nearly half of which was allowed to melt in an unrefrigerated warehouse in Lacombe, according to a report just released by the Louisiana Inspector General’s (IG) office.
Lacombe is in St. Tammany Parish.
GOHSEP Director Kevin Davis was St. Tammany Parish President until his appointment by Jindal to head GOHSEP in December of 2011.
In addition to the cost of the ice, the state also paid Pelican Ice, Inc. of Kenner nearly $1.1 million for mileage and $9.2 million in “loitering” fees for Pelican drivers at $75 per hour, bring the total cost of the ice supply project to $17.4 million.
The reported noted that the Louisiana National Guard (LANG) claimed that 1.5 million bags of ice were distributed to the public.
Pelican, however, invoiced GOHSEP for the delivery of only 142 truckloads, or 624,800 bags. Pelican was the sole supplier of ice for the hurricane relief effort.
Based on all associated costs, GOHSEP paid $28 per bag of ice distributed.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursed the state for 75 percent of the costs of the ice with GOHSEP paying the remaining 25 percent.
Certainly, had there been a widespread power outage caused by Isaac and had the administration not been prepared with sufficient supplies of ice, there would have been harsh criticism from those unable to obtain ice.
But at the same time, it would seem reasonable to assume that GOHSEP would have taken the necessary precautions to secure refrigerated storage facilities for the ice that was not distributed to storm victims.
Isaac made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River on Aug. 28, 2012, and GOHSEP place three separate orders with Pelican for ice—on Aug. 29, Aug. 30 and Sept. 2. Each order was for 15,050,000 pounds of ice in 10-pound bags, or 45.15 million pounds total. The amount actually delivered was 33.9 million pounds for which Pelican invoiced the state $17.4 million.
The invoice amount included 268,856 miles at $4 per mile ($1,075,901), $9,207,692 “loitering time,” the time which Pelican’s drivers were required to wait to load or unload their trucks beyond a four-hour delay. The ice itself cost $7,124,000, according to Inspector General Stephen Street, Jr.
Additionally, GOHSEP agreed to pay Pelican a $315,000 “restocking charge” to take back some of the ice but the ice was taken to an unrefrigerated warehouse in Lacombe where it was allowed to melt. The warehouse rental was negotiated by Baron Property Management of Destrehan. The registered agent for Baron Property Management, Paul J. Murray, contributed $1,000 to Jindal in November of 2008.
The cost of the ill-fated Lacombe warehouse project came to more than $7.5 million, the report said. That included $3.2 million for the ice, $416,114 in mileage costs, $315,000 for the “restocking fee,” and $3.6 million in loitering costs.
Another sticking point noted in the IG report was that even though GOHSEP paid Pelican $4 per mile and the $75 per hour loitering fee, it also paid $238,819 to refuel the loitering ice trucks. This meant that taxpayer dollars paid mileage and purchased fuel for the trucks, in effect, a dual payment.
Among the IG’s findings and recommendations:
- During hurricane Isaac, neither GOHSEP nor LANG had an inventory tracking system sufficient to accurately record the daily consumption of ice. Such a system should be implemented to ensure that the essential amounts of commodities are on hand or on order.
- We found that LANG could not provide supporting documentation to show the amounts of ice consumed and requested during the hurricane. An inventory tracking system should include a feature that reliably memorializes the amount of commodities requested by each parish and the quantities ordered and delivered to fulfill those requests.
- GOHSEP expended $7,536,314 to acquire, transport and restock ice that was allowed to melt in an unrefrigerated warehouse. To prevent such unnecessary expenditures of public funds in the future, GOHSEP should include a provision in its ice contracts for excess ice to be returned to the distributor along with a refund of the value of the returned product.
- GOHSEP paid $238,819 to purchase fuel for refrigerated trucks that it was already paying $1800 per day to loiter. Future delivery contracts should be written to ensure that trucks receiving loitering and mileage payments be required to provide their own fuel. In the event that the trucks cannot leave their assigned location, arrangements should be made for fuel to be delivered to the trucks at their own expense.
Davis, in his response to Street’s report, said that all four of the report’s recommendations have since been implemented by GOHSEP.
In September of 2008, Jindal lost no time in making Department of Social Services Secretary Ann Williamson the scapegoat for the confusion that surrounded shelter conditions and the emergency food stamp program following Hurricane Gustav.
Though Williamson officially “resigned,” it is no secret that she was forced out, or “teagued” by Jindal—a tactic that seems to be his preferred method of jettisoning people he doesn’t want in his administration. Williamson had the misfortune of having served under former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, apparently an unpardonable sin in the Jindal administration.
In commenting on Williamson’s departure, Jindal, as is his custom, declined to say whether he leaned on her to resign, choosing to fall back on what would become a familiar line with subsequent departures: “We agreed it was time to go in a different direction.”
No word has been forthcoming from the governor’s office if any disciplinary action might be considered for Davis’s waste of $7.5 million in lost ice and transportation costs or if an agreement to “go in a different direction” might be in the works.
Of course Williamson was not the one who contributed $3,000 to Jindal’s campaigns.
That was Davis.