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Livingston Parish President Layton Ricks has announced the United States Civilian Board of Contract Appeals (CBCA) has denied FEMA’s motion to dismiss Livingston Parish’s request for arbitration to recover the $59,183,143 it expended to clear waterways from damages wrought by Hurricane Gustav in September 2008.

“We received word today from our attorneys in Washington DC, and we are ecstatic,” said Ricks. “This denial of FEMA’s motion to dismiss is big for the recovery of the $59 million. Our parish has cleared a major hurdle to obtain the funds for which the parish is ultimately responsible.”

According to the ruling from the CBCA, “Livingston Parish has met all of the requirements established by Section 565 for us to take jurisdiction over the case.”

The case will now be heard by the Citizens Board of Contract Appeals

Section 601 of Public Law 111-5 directs the President of the United States to establish an arbitration panel and the Civilian Board of Contract Appeals is that arbitration panel.

Ricks said since taking office he has been steadily moving forward and navigating through all of FEMA’s red tape and delays to obtain the money Ricks feels is owed to Livingston Parish.”

Livingston Parish is seeking recovery of $44,002,901 for removing debris from the waterways; $14,096,899 for removal of “leaners and hangers” trees which posed an immediate threat to lives, public health and safety; and $1,083,344 for direct administrative costs.

On April 3, 2013, Livingston Parish asked the Inspector General to review FEMA’s decision regarding these applications.

In an audit report dated October 24, 2013, the Inspector General concluded: “FEMA did not follow Federal rules and regulations in making…decisions (on the eligibility of the Parish’s debris removal costs).

In the CBCA’s ruling they stated the Inspector General found that FEMA determinations related to eligibility and cost associated with the Parish’s application involved a misapplication of rules and regulations.

Finally in addition to taking over the case the CBCA denied FEMA’s request for a 120 day stay.

The CBCA noted “…We agree with the Parish and the State of Louisiana that such a stay is unnecessary. This dispute has been pending for several years, and FEMA should have been thoroughly evaluating the Parish’s contentions at least since June 2010, when the Parish lodged its first agency appeal. The arbitration process should be a vehicle for bringing this dispute to a prompt conclusion, rather than delaying matters still further. Thus we deny FEMA’s motion in its entirety.”

Ricks said the next step will be the panel to confer with all of the parties to establish a schedule for further proceedings.

“This really is great news for our parish,” said Ricks. “I am looking forward to putting the debris issue behind us. I also want to thank the attorneys for their hard work to move this matter forward and I have full confidence they will see it through to fruition. I will continue to work hard for all the people of the parish who worked on the debris cleanup.”