Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser is looking more and more like a candidate for lieutenant governor in the fall elections, although he has not yet announced his intentions formally. His early posturing comes at a time when federal investigators are looking at contracts, FEMA project worksheets and other parish records that were the subject of a scathing state legislative audit last year.
The audit concluded that Nungesser may have violated the law when he approved certain contracts for hurricane recovery work without approval of the Plaquemines Parish Council.
As rumors swirl about the scope of the federal investigation, Nungesser has posted a message to supporters on his website (www.billynungesser.com). The message leaves little doubt as to his intentions, and the site bears the slogan, "Billy Nungesser: For All of Louisiana."
"As my work has continued in the recovery of our state from the oil spill, I have realized much of rebuilding Louisiana's image will reside in the office of Lieutenant Governor," Nungesser writes on the site. "After much encouragement and listening to supporters from around the state, I am considering running for Lieutenant Governor in the fall election. I also believe this is where I can do the most good for the Great State of Louisiana."
The message goes on to make a pitch for campaign contributions to his campaign finance committee, Friends of Billy Nungesser.
Meanwhile, the feds appear to be looking at parish payroll records as well as contracts and FEMA project worksheets from 2007. The legislative auditor's report questioned Nungesser's decision in early 2007 to sign two contracts — one for debris monitoring and another for management of recovery projects and FEMA reimbursements.
In his defense, Nungesser says the parish was under a post-Katrina emergency declaration that authorized him to sign the contracts. State auditors claim he did not show how the contracts would mitigate threats to life, public safety or property damage. Without such a showing, he needed council approval to sign the contracts, according to the audit. — Clancy DuBos