Friloux slams transit idea on the clock

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 7, 2002


LULING – A River Parishes transit system may sound like a good idea to some, but apparently not to former St. Charles Parish President Kevin Friloux, who blasted the notion Aug. 27 in a letter faxed to parish council members.

The letter was faxed while Friloux was on the clock, working at the St. Charles Parish School Board’s tax office, where he has been employed as assistant director of tax collections since 1991. It was labeled by the tax office fax machine with the date (Aug. 27), time (9:02 a.m.), source (St. Charles School Board Tax Office) and the fax number.

Using office time and equipment for political activity violates established school board policy, according to Rochelle Touchard, public information officer.

The written policy, No. 4.04, states: “The Board recognizes that its employees have the right to participate in political activities and to personally campaign for public office, consistent with Louisiana statutes. However, the Board prohibits employees from engaging in political activities in support of or in opposition to specific candidates and issues while employees are carrying out their officially assigned responsibilities.”

In Friloux’s fax to the council members, he labeled the transit proposal as “just another bite of the apple” and suggested anyone who needs transportation assistance to “let them take care of themselves.”

When contact regarding the fax, Friloux responded, “It was just my personal opinion. I probably shouldn’t have sent it from over here. I was in a hurry.”

He added people often use fax machines for personal use, and said, “I’ve seen people faxing church stuff or send jokes.”

However, Friloux said he did not think this was a problem. “I didn’t think it was aimed at anybody in a political way. I just wanted to get it out of the way.”

Friloux, who served as parish administrator from 1975 to 1979 and as parish president from 1980 to 1988 and has since changed from Democrat to Republican, is frequently mentioned as a possible candidate to run for parish assessor next year.

“I still may run, but I don’t know,” he said to that possibility.

He was appointed by Gov. Mike Foster to the five-member St. Charles Parish Board of Election Supervisors.

The transit system, as proposed at the Aug. 19 St. Charles Parish Council meeting by South Central Planning and Development would run buses, at least in its initial stages, across St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes, adding St. James Parish in time.

This system could, with transfers at fixed points, transport riders from any location to any other location, and include a link with the Jefferson Parish system and into New Orleans, according to Kevin Belanger of South Central Planning.

Projected expenses would include vehicle buying, salaries for drivers and staff, insurance, administrative costs and marketing and add up to $1.3 million, Belanger estimated, and a garage would also be necessary for storage and maintenance. The system would likely earn $850,000 per year.

“It is a losing proposition,” Friloux responded to the proposal in his letter to parish council members, “and one that I hope you, as a conservative, will vote to kill.”

Friloux continued: “I, and my immediate family, spend about $38 or so, per day, that’s not per month, but per day, to own and operate our vehicles. Why should my tax dollars go toward subsidizing a transportation system that I, my family, my friends and everyone I know, will never use? Are you willing to implement a system to subsidize my family going back and forth to work or school?”

The former parish president added: “You may argue that these people need our assistance. Let them take care of themselves. My father doesn’t drive and I, or my brother, bring him to the doctor,k the store, church, whatever, as he needs to go. These people who so desperately need this transportation can do the same thing.”

Friloux concluded, “Believe me, even if this program starts as a pittance (if you consider a half-million dollars a year a pittance), it will grow and grow and grow and then like some cancers, it will smother you. I hope you see fit to vote to kill this measure.”

Friloux further commented Tuesday as to the transit proposal, “Sometimes, your intentions are good, but when it starts, you can’t stop it.”