New A.G. opinion coming
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 20, 2008
By KEVIN CHIRI
Editor and Publisher
GARYVILLE — A newly revised opinion from the Louisiana attorney general’s office regarding the proposed vote on incorporation for the town of Garyville will be released soon, sources to L’Observateur have confirmed.
However the state attorney general will also be telling St. John Parish officials that his office will not be involved in researching whether industry in the proposed town boundaries is, in fact, to be excluded from the new town.
The ‘B’ opinion, as the attorney general’s office is calling it, will be released after Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell reviews it, according to Public Information Officer Tammi Arender.
“We received a request for reconsideration from Jeffery Perilloux and a ‘B’ opinion has been drafted and is in the review process,” Arender told L’Observateur. “As for the request for a ‘ruling’ based on documents submitted, we don’t issue rulings, courts do.”
The Garyville Incorporation Committee had sent a petition to the governor, asking for a vote to be called for the Town of Garyville to become incorporated. The group had submitted the required number of signatures asking for an incorporation vote.
The A.G.’s office originally issued an opinion to Governor Bobby Jindal, recommending approval of the incorporation vote. That led to the governor calling for a vote on July 19 on the matter of the Town of Garyville becoming incorporated.
But St. John Parish has challenged a key point in the petition request, involving whether big industry in the proposed town boundaries can be included in the town. Committee members have drawn the industry into the town boundaries, expecting to include it in their revenue base.
But St. John officials say the majority of the industry in the proposed town boundaries should not be included in the town, since the majority of them filed paperwork up to 40 years ago which will exclude them from any future incorporation.
The original A.G.’s opinion said that “based on information received by the A.G. from the chairwoman of the committee,” they believed the industry should be included in the town.
But St. John Parish Attorney Jeff Perilloux sent a letter to the A.G., asking for reconsideration of the recommendation to the governor, or at least rewording about the way the A.G. appeared to back the industry inclusion in the town.
Now Perilloux believes the attorney general’s office will be issuing a different opinion.
“To see that they are going to change their ruling is no surprise,” he said. “We have known all along that the industry is not supposed to be included in the town’s boundaries.”
However Perilloux did not say he knew what the new ruling would say, nor how far it might go on taking a position on the industry dispute.
“Even though we can’t be sure what they will say in the new ruling, you have to conclude that any new information indicates that their original ruling was wrong, based on faulty information that was given to them,” he noted. “From the beginning, we questioned why the A.G. would use the information from the Garyville committee chairwoman in part of the ruling, when that is their job to do. This calls the entire petition process into question.”
The issue of whether industry will be included in the town is a huge one, since companies such as Marathon Refinery, Gramercy Aluminum, Cargill, Nalco and others, provide tens of millions of dollars in tax money to the parish.
Additionally, Marathon is presently adding a sales tax windfall to the parish, expected to be as much as $60 million over the next two years, as part of their current $3.2 billion expansion.
If those industries are included in the town, it would not only fatten the Town of Garyville coffers in a big way, but also take a huge amount of money away from St. John Parish.
Baloney has insisted all along that her group expects to get some of that tax money, while the parish has provided documentation from those industries, which shows they filed proper paperwork up to 40 years ago which satisfied a state law, excluding them from any future incorporation.
Marathon Refinery Plant Manager Rich Bedell agrees, telling L’Observateur “as soon as the matter came up, we immediately checked it. We are exempt because we are an industrial area and we have filed the proper paperwork to ensure that.”
Perilloux had hoped the state A.G.’s office would give an opinion about whether the paperwork filed is all good enough to keep the big industry out of the town, but apparently that won’t be forthcoming.
“If the A.G. doesn’t give us a ruling on that, I think we will weigh our options about whether it is worth legal action to get a ruling before the election. We just want people to have all the proper information before they vote on this matter.”
Perilloux said he also thinks it is quite possible that industry itself, or even private citizens, may still take the incorporation vote to the courts before July 19.
“This matter could be challenged from any number of places, including the industry, or even private citizens,” he remarked. “We just want the proclamation signed by the governor to be based on information that is not faulty, so people know what they are really voting on.”