BATON ROUGE, La. — A financial institution is paying lawyers $700 per hour to help Livingston Parish fight the Federal Emergency Management Agency's denials of $60 million in claims for Hurricane Gustav-related cleanup costs.
But its identity is shrouded in secrecy.
The Advocate reports the parish won't name the bank assisting in its battle against FEMA, and the benefactor is fighting to keep its identity a secret.
FEMA has repeatedly denied the bulk of the parish's claims for debris removal costs stemming from the 2008 storm. The agency said much of the work ran afoul of federal guidelines and was therefore ineligible for reimbursement. The parish requested arbitration over the issue, but FEMA has asked the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals in Washington, D.C., to dismiss the case.
FEMA contends the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General must first determine whether FEMA wrongly denied payment before the case can go to arbitration. The parish disagrees and is fighting against dismissal.
Parish President Layton Ricks said Friday that the financial institution paying for the parish's Washington, D.C., attorneys — whom the parish legal adviser described as "top-notch" and charging "upwards of $700 per hour" — does not want its identity revealed to anyone.
The parish's contract for debris removal was with International Equipment Distributors, a firm that has sued the parish in state court for more than $50 million in unpaid work, plus interest.
That case is on hold, pending the outcome of the arbitration.