In The News › Audits find mispayment, faulty contracting involving Crescent City Connection funds

Audits find mispayment, faulty contracting involving Crescent City Connection funds

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
By Maya Rodriguez / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS— Three separate audits commissioned by the state Department of Transportation and Development covered a number of issues involving the Crescent City Connection, including its finances, toll system and contracting processes. Problems with some contracts already led to one person getting fired.

“We had found that some of the work was done prior to the work being signed and subsequent to finding that, the employee that was handling those efforts was terminated,” said David Miller, DOTD Director of Toll Facilities.

State officials won’t say who was fired, since that person can still appeal that decision.

However, two other employees were at the center of another problem uncovered in the audits. That time, it revolved around a mispayment of nearly $100,000 from Crescent City Connection funds, which went to pay for the administrative salaries of two people working on LA 1, the elevated bridge at Leeville, in Lafourche Parish.

“They weren’t charging their time to LA 1,” Miller said. “So, we’ve got a $98,000 check that we’ll credit and fix that.”

The findings of those state-requested audits come on the heels of a separate independent report, released by the Bureau of Governmental Research. It concluded the Crescent City Connection tolls should be allowed to expire at the end of 2012 because a large portion of the toll money is being used on things other than the bridge.

“Approximately, one-third of it actually goes to the ferries, on which many people ride for free,” said BGR’s Janet Howard. “A large percentage, a rather large chunk, goes to the constant toll collection and then some goes to projects as far as nine miles away from the bridge.”

Yet, the toll money also goes towards funding the Crescent City Connection police force. BGR said there is a need to take a look at who could take over the responsibility, once the tolls are eliminated.

“In many other places in the state, the state police is paying for, taking over that responsibility, so that is something that needs to be looked at further,” Howard said.

BGR concludes money to maintain the CCC should come from the same place it does for other bridges: the state transportation trust fund. The CCC is the only bridge in the state— spanning the Mississippi River— which charges a toll.

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