Hurricane cleanup spawns litigation

Feb. 24, 2006 at 7:19 PM
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NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The mammoth task of debris removal in New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast has spawned a new flood of litigation and investigation.

Less than six months after the hurricanes, there are already five federal investigations into the cleanup and two criminal cases, the New York Times reports. The number of lawsuits filed is unknown.

The plaintiffs include people like Matthew Lopez, who claims that Ceres Environmental allowed out-of-town contractors to steal work from him in Ponchatoula, La., and organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed suit on behalf of immigrant workers allegedly underpaid by two companies.

There are complaints about the large companies given huge contracts for debris removal. Local officials say the pace is too slow and more work should go to local companies and individuals.

St. Bernard Parish, one of the areas hit hardest by Katrina, is locked in a dispute with the Federal Emergency Management Agency over payment for its contractor. FEMA accuses St. Bernard of paying too much, while local officials say the agency resisted all its efforts to find out beforehand what FEMA considers the proper level of payment.

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