[StBernard] Judge raps St. Bernard again over housing
westley at da-parish.com
Tue Oct 25 14:23:43 EDT 2011
Judge raps St. Bernard again over housing
Published: Tuesday, October 25, 2011, 10:00 AM
By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, The Times-Picayune
In a move now seemingly commonplace, a federal judge on Monday once again
found St. Bernard Parish in contempt for attempts to stop the development of
four contentious mixed-income apartment complexes in Chalmette.
And immediately after the order that threatened escalating fines or
"coercive sanctions" if the parish did not authorize Entergy to release
electricity to three of the four sites, the Parish Council held an emergency
meeting and voted, 4-3, that Parish President Craig Taffaro make that
Before the vote, Taffaro asked the council to allow him to hold his ground.
"Obviously, my position is to incur the debt and fight the release to
Entergy, but obviously I cannot do that without the council," Taffaro said.
It is the sixth contempt motion U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan has
issued against the parish for either disregarding her orders or for
violating federal fair housing laws. Another contempt motion was ruled moot
when the parish in 2008 voluntarily canceled a referendum on a multifamily
Last week, Berrigan issued her fifth contempt ruling, stating that the
parish's continued blocking of the Provident Realty Advisors apartments is
intentionally discriminatory against African-Americans by "doggedly
(attempting) to preserve the pre-Katrina demographics" of its parish.
Already subject to yet-to-be-determined monetary damages from last week's
order, Berrigan on Monday ruled that the parish is in contempt for failing
to immediately authorize Entergy to release the electricity to building
meters and individual apartment meters at the Woodcrest, Parc Place and
Magnolia sites after she ordered the parish to do so last Tuesday. While the
fourth site, Riverview, also is under construction, it is still wrapped up
in some building-permit issues over minor drainage concerns.
Berrigan has given the parish until 9 a.m. today to make that authorization
or the parish will be fined $10,000 per day. That would escalate to $20,000
a day by Friday.
Berrigan further ordered that a magistrate decide amounts of damages,
reasonable attorneys' fees and costs associated with the parish's contempt.
While each councilmen said he believed it was wrong to issue electricity to
the sites before the apartments are granted certificates of occupancy -- a
precedent Taffaro claims has never been broken -- only Councilmen Ray Lauga,
Wayne Landry and Fred Everhardt voted against abiding by the judicial order.
All three are in runoff elections.
As a part of the council order directing Taffaro to release the electricity,
the council also voted "to vigorously pursue the legal matters to see if we
can have this reversed."
The four councilmen who voted in favor of releasing the electricity spoke of
the burden the $10,000-a-day fines would place on the parish if the
electricity was not authorized.
Councilman Frank Auderer feared that if the St. Bernard did not abide by the
federal judge's order, the parish would "sooner or later" run out of money.
"Basically, what is going to happen is they are going to seize our bank
accounts, and basically the money we have is in payroll," Auderer warned.
"If they seize the payroll accounts, then we can't pay employees."
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