Martin takes heat during port meeting

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 21, 1998

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / September 21, 1998

LAPLACE – South Louisiana Port Commissioner E.J. Martin came under theline of fire from fellow commissioner Brent Tregre at Wednesday’s meeting, as Tregre called for a State Ethics Board review of Martin’s recent votes.

Martin has been under scrutiny from the State Inspector General’s office already involving the Bay Star Enterprises audit investigation. Businessrelations between Martin and Bay Star’s owner, Marvin Harvey, made up a significant portion of the Inspector General’s preliminary report.

Action on that report, however, has been apparently stalled in Gov.

Foster’s office, where it has sat since May.

Tregre said Wednesday that during the Aug. 12 Port Commission meetingMartin voted against the hiring of Baton Rouge attorney Steven Irving, who will assist the port’s own investigation in the matter.

Tregre offered a list of checks paid by Bay Star to Martin and to LaPlace Speciality, including loan payments and others for non-stated purposes.

“That’s the definition of a conflict of interest,” Tregre declared.

Whether the checks were for legitimate business or not, Tregre emphasized, the business relationship exists and that should disqualify Martin from voting on the matter.

As for the stalled ethics board investigation, Tregre declared, “We need to move now on that ethics ruling.”Martin crisply responded, “Write whoever you want to write to and get your ruling. I’ll second the motion.”He added, though, “I’ll vote until a ruling says I can’t.”Commission President Brandt Dufrene dryly observed, “Maybe we ought to take time out for another prayer.”Commissioner Greg Lier added, “I want to bring this to closure. I’m tiredof talking about it.”In other matters, executive director Gary LaGrange reported the Port of South Louisiana developed a $2.2 million surplus during fiscal year 1997-1998, thanks to unexpected revenue and sound business practices. Thatwas far above the initial surplus projection of $126,000.

During the same period, $42 million in capital improvement projects were launched or offered under bid.

The port will host its first-ever meeting of MetroVision on Sept. 22 at theGodchaux Guest House, including a river tour and a reception. On Oct. 16,the agricultural secretary of Chile is due to visit.

Also, the commission approved a proclamation of goodwill, brotherhood and cooperation with the Puerto de Cortez, Honduras.

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