OPELOUSAS, LA (KLFY) – The Mayor of Opelousas says he’ll payback the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). During the August 2016 flood, Mayor Reggie Tatum worked at the local shelter assisting flood victims.
According to a state legislative audit report, the mayor “received $12,973 in overtime pay from the City of Opelousas (City) for work he performed at a local shelter” in anticipation of being reimbursed by FEMA.
The payment received raised questions about the mayor being paid as a public official and receiving overtime taking his salary beyond the council approved salary.
On Tuesday, the mayor announced before the city council that’s he’s repaying FEMA. The mayor says it’s not about being right or wrong — rather it’s about moving the city forward.
The mayor says it’s costing the city too much to defend against the issue. The mayor says six staff members had to compile thousands of pages of information in order to comply with just one public request. “We’ve already spent over $60,000 just between court and public records request by these individuals,” adds Tatum.
The mayor stands by the opinion he did nothing wrong. In fact, Mayor Tatum says he gave the money he received to people in Opelousas who came to city hall for help. Tatum says it’s something he’s done before and will continue to do. “We got to get pass all this fighting and all these people doing all this stuff for revengeful reasons,” says the mayor.
“How could you move forward if you got 1,000 employees and no money to buy materials they need to do the work with. I think you need to start downsizing,” says Opelousas resident Paul Gennuso.
Gennuso believes the payback is not enough. Gennous is one of the individuals that submitted to the city a request for information. He says the mayor is not allowed to earn overtime pay. “Do a Bill of Information or indictment in front of a grand jury and bring him to trial or let the judge or jury decide his fate. You can’t rob the bank, feel sorry, bring the money back and walk away,” says Gennuso.
“I’m going to continue to do what I was elected to do by the citizens of Opelousas,” adds Mayor Tatum.