In an eleventh hour settlement of a lawsuit headed for trial Aug. 10, Mosquito Control Contractors, Inc. reached an agreement with the Iberia Parish Council. "If the parties were going to settle, we had to do it now," says parish Assistant District Attorney Wayne Landry. The deciding factor, scheduled for a ruling prior to the trial's commencement, was a pending motion for parish government's right to cancel MCCI's contract. "Whoever wins that motion, there would be little incentive to settle after that," adds Landry, who represents the parish.
A ruling for MCCI would have caused the parish government to reimburse MCCI from the time the contract was cancelled through the length of its term ' more than $300,000. The council voted 10-2 not to gamble and instead accepted a payment of $132,665 from MCCI.
Council member Caesar Comeaux was one of the two dissenting votes. "There was an audit made, and we got the results that we have been overcharged," he says. "What would this be called if [MCCI President Glenn Stokes] overcharged over a long period of time? They call that fraud. I just don't feel it was right for us to settle that in a meeting room. It should have been sent to court."
Former council member Lloyd Nicholson, who introduced Stokes to Iberia Parish in 1982, and remains friends with him, agrees with Comeaux. "The problem with not going to trial is that if anything was improper or illegal, we'll never know about it now."
The dispute between Iberia Parish Government and MCCI came to a head in September 2004, when the parish council cancelled its source reduction contract with MCCI and filed suit for breach of contract, money due and damages. ("Foggy Contract Breakdown," June 1). Stokes countersued.
Landry is pleased with the terms of the settlement. "If there's one thing I'm elated about, it's to get the parish out of the source reduction business. There's a potential for too many problems ' the potential for abuse when you're doing public work on private property," he says.
Stokes is relieved as well. "We don't feel that we did anything wrong," he says. "We followed the contract and did whatever we were told to do by the parish. It was shown that mistakes and miscalculations were made on both sides. At no time during this was my professional integrity or the quality of mosquito control in question. This was about figures. We won a lot of things; they proved some things. Ultimately it saved everyone ' the taxpayers and us ' money." ' MT
BUS STOP BULLETINS
After the confusion experienced last year with new bus routes, the Lafayette Parish School System's Transportation Department wants parents, students and bus drivers on the same page for the start of school in August. To achieve that goal, it's launched a new transportation department Web site, and parish bus stop pamphlets will be mailed out next month to all public school students' residences. The transportation department also is sending out special letters to pupils registered in any of the school system's Schools of Choice programs and working on setting up a hotline to field questions. "We're trying to cover all our bases," says LPSS Communications Director Justine Sutley. The transportation department's new Web site, which can be linked from www.lpssonline.com, invites users to type in their address and view a map of area bus stops, along with school and bus driver contact information. Sutley says she hopes parents will contact bus drivers in advance so the drivers can estimate how many students they will be picking up at each stop. Last year's newly consolidated bus routes resulted in scores of students riding in overcrowded buses or waiting in vain at the wrong bus stops. ' NS
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