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Loop Oops! – Unanswered Questions about the BR Loop

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By Dave Freneaux
    Central Speaks began researching the Baton Rouge Loop in response to the controversy over a toll road being forcibly built through the City of Central.  The result is that Central Speaks dug into the State Law governing the BR Loop and found that no construction can take place without Central’s prior express written consent.  This was certainly welcome news to the citizens of Central, but the investigation yielded other troubling questions about the BR Loop Authority, also known as the Capital Area Expressway Authority or the CAEA.
    Following are eight questions raised by the investigation, along with the specific findings that gave rise to each question.  Central Speaks does not claim to be an authority on the legal, corporate and legislative issues presented here, and will thus simply present the facts found and the questions these facts raise.  Central Speaks has tried repeatedly beginning December 19th to bring these concerns to the CAEA Chairman, EBR Mayor-President Kip Holden, but the request for a meeting has been denied.
    As a newspaper, Central Speaks is neither for nor against the concept of a toll road in or near Central.  However, fiscal responsibility dictates that any organization spending tax dollars be run correctly and in accordance with all laws and regulations.  It is possible that there are reasonable answers which satisfy each of these eight questions, and Central Speaks stands ready to print any or all of them should they be made available.
 
1) Could EBR Parish legally have acted as an incorporator of the CAEA?
    State Law Reads: “Each parish or municipality shall adopt an ordinance approving the drafting and execution of the articles of incorporation of such authority and shall act as an incorporator of the authority.”  The EBR Metro Council passed Resolution No. 43173 on 4/14/2004 authorizing EBR Parish as an incorporator of the CAEA.  An ordinance is a local law.  A resolution is a non-binding, unenforceable statement made by a legislative body.  It would seem that EBR failed to qualify to act as an incorporatorof the CAEA.
 
2) Do the boundaries of the CAEA 
even include EBR Parish, the City of Central and other Municipalities?
State Law Reads: “The boundaries of the authority shall be coextensive with the territorial boundaries of the parish or parishes or municipality or municipalities which establish such authority.”  If EBR Parish, by failing to pass an Ordinance to act as an incorporator, did not participate in establishing the CAEA, then the boundaries of the CAEA’s authority apparently do not include EBR Parish.  Similarly, the City of Central and any other municipality such as Walker and Baker who did not join in the establishment of the CAEA should logically be excluded from the geographic boundaries of the CAEA project.
 
3) Do the boundaries of the CAEA include Iberville and Ascension Parish?
According to records at the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office, on June 8, 2004 East Baton Rouge Parish, West Baton Rouge Parish, and Livingston Parish joined together under 1997 Louisiana Act 1017 and created the Capital Area Expressway Authority (CAEA).  Iberville and Ascension Parish did not participate in establishing this authority.
 
4) Was it appropriate to spend tax dollars studying loop routes through Ascension and Iberville Parishes if those Parishes were not within the geographic boundaries of the CAEA’s authority?
    With these two parishes having failed to act as incorporators of the CAEA in 2004, the CAEA held a board meeting on August 11, 2009 and passed the following resolution: “Approval of Resolution on the Geographical Boundaries of the Capital Area Expressway Authority.  On a motion by Mr. Berthelot, seconded by Mr. Martinez, a resolution was adopted establishing the geographical boundaries of the Authority to be coterminous with the geographical boundaries of Ascension, East Baton Rouge, Iberville, Livingston and West Baton Rouge parishes.”  However, State Law makes no provision for Parishes or Municipalities to be added to the geographical boundaries of the CAEA authority by a simple resolution of the CAEA Board.  Further, there is no provision made, even if this resolution were to be legal and binding, to include any City or Town within these Parishes.
    The other issue surrounding Iberville and Ascension is the timing of the studies.  While the CAEA Board may or may not have been legally allowed to add Parishes to the CAEA authority by simple CAEA Board resolution, this occurred in August of 2009.  Maps showing the entire loop around Baton Rouge including routes through Ascension and Iberville Parishes were on display at public meetings held by the CAEA as far back as 2007, over two years prior to any attempt to include those Parishes in the CAEA.
 
5) How is the CAEA Board operating with only three Board Members?
    State Law Reads: “….the Board shall consist of at least five directors, including the secretary of the department (DOTD) or his designee….the chairman of the metropolitan planning organization or his designee….each parish or municipality shall appoint an equal number of directors.”   In 2010, prior to the September 8, 2010 CAEA Board meeting, the Parish Presidents of Livingston, Iberville and Ascension Parishes resigned from the CAEA Board.  The CAEA Board was seemingly left with only three Board members and has made no effort to add members to the Board.  It would seem that the remaining two Parishes, EBR and WBR, would simply have appointed one additional Board member each, restoring the board to the five members required by state law.   It appears that the CAEA Board is either meeting with only three of the six Board Members present, which would not be a legal meeting because three does not constitute a quorum, or that the CAEA board has failed to meet the State Law requirement that there be five Board Members.
6) Are Livingston, Iberville and Ascension Parishes still included in the boundaries of the CAEA Authority?
Since the resignation of the Board Members from these three Parishes, there has been no mention in CAEA Board minutes of the effect this may have on the geographic boundaries of the CAEA Authority.  With the initial inclusion of Iberville and Ascension being in question anyway, the issue of whether Livingston’s resignation removes that Parish from the geographic boundaries of the CAEA should at least be determined.
 
7) Why is the Chairmanship of the CAEA Board not being alternated between Parishes?
    State Law Reads: “An authority shall elect from its directors a chairman, a vice chairman, and a secretary-treasurer who will serve one year terms…the chairmanship for each successive term shall be alternated between the representatives of all participating parishes and municipalities.”  According to the minutes of the CAEA Board Meetings, EBR Mayor-President Kip Holden was the Chairman of the CAEA for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.  Further, the CAEA Bylaws state that officers shall be elected “annually at the first regular meeting in each calendar year.”  There are no elections of officers recorded in the minutes of any Board meeting in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
 
8) Why does the CAEA not meet quarterly as required in its Bylaws?
    The Bylaws of the Capital Area Expressway Authority were adopted at the CAEA organizational meeting on November 14, 2007.  Item 14 of the Bylaws reads: “Regular meetings of the Board shall be held on the date and at the time(s) and place(s) established by resolution of the Board, but in no event less often than quarterly.”  Minutes of the CAEA Board reflect that the Board met only once in 2011, only once in 2010 and only twice in 2009.
 
 
 

12 Comments

  1. Kim Fralick

    January 19, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    What is the purpose of this article, Dave?

    • dave

      January 20, 2012 at 2:09 am

      The Loop has had, and could have, a large impact on our Community. Whether one is in favor of or opposed to a toll road, if our tax dollars are being spent on the study then it should be done correctly. This seems not to have been, and that is news.

    • dave

      January 20, 2012 at 2:10 am

      What do you perceive as the usefulness or purpose of this information?

  2. Jason Ellis

    January 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    So it would seem that the loop commission is operating outside the parameters of the law. That is sad. It is time for the lawyers to determine what the implications of all this really means. Wow Dave so the way I read this it is possible that the CAEA does not even legally exist. What a waste for all of those involved. Government dropped the ball on the largest possible transportation investment in our region. It is appaling the way this has been handled and the lack of commitment to come up with a viable plan saddens me. Thanks for sharing these questions with us Dave!

  3. Bebe

    January 20, 2012 at 3:17 pm

    So, are we in agreement that the CAEA has no authority here in the case of the loop other than the word authority they included in their own name?

    • dave

      January 20, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      As I indicated in the article, I am not claiming these apparent flaws to be fatal, but they sure look like a legal mess to me. I would hate to see millions more dollars spent, then have even one person who was opposed go and file a lawsuit and have to explain all this in court. As I have said, I am not opposed to a loop built where and how Central agrees to, but I say don’t spend another dime until everyone is sure the CAEA is on firm legal ground in its incorporation, authority boundaries, and Board actions.
      Looks to me like they need to go back to square one and redo or repair the seeming flaws.
      Dave Frenesux

  4. Kim Fralick

    January 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    Woody shared this with me about two weeks ago. Belinda and Mike also posted much about it on Facebook. I hope this is a lesson for all of us. Nothing in life is free and the government is prone to doing things the wrong way.

    • dave

      January 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm

      Kim,

      You know, I really am much more interested in printing the truth than getting credit for going and finding it, but I do have limits. Please do tell me where “Belinda and Mike also posted much about it on Facebook.” regarding ANY of the information in this article. I am not interested in the research I have done on the loop being attributed to others.

      I guess it is possible that when I began bringing this to Mayor Kip Holden’s office over a month ago, a contact of Woody’s may have given Woody some or all of this information so that he could have known it “about two weeks ago.” And, if he knew it two weeks ago, given his stance on the Loop, I am about certain it would have been in his newspaper last week.

  5. Bebe

    January 20, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Thank you Dave.

    • dave

      January 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      You are welcome Belinda. It has been an eye-opening search.

  6. Dave

    January 20, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Kim,

    You know, I really am much more interested in printing the truth than getting credit for going and finding it, but I do have limits. Please do tell me where “Belinda and Mike also posted much about it on Facebook.” regarding ANY of the information in this article. I am not interested in the research I have done on the loop being attributed to others.

    I guess it is possible that when I began bringing this to Mayor Kip Holden’s office over a month ago, a contact of Woody’s may have given Woody some or all of this information so that he could have known it “about two weeks ago.” But, if he knew it two weeks ago, given his stance on the Loop, I am about certain it would have been in his newspaper last week.

  7. KWC

    January 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Good Investigative Reporting Dave!

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