Does the name “Aaron Broussard” ring a bell? Well, he is the president of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, who was immortalized on NBC’s “Meet the Press” right after Hurricane Katrina hit when he suggested – with tears in his eyes – that the slow response by the federal government resulted in the unnecessary death of the mother of one of his colleagues. When it turned out that his claims were disputed by the son of the deceased woman, Tim Russert invited Broussard back on “Meet the Press,” and as was reported by NewsBusters, Russert let him off the hook again.
Last evening, Carl Quintanilla did a report on the “NBC Nightly News” about concerns being addressed by residents of Jefferson Parish that the drainage pump operators responsible for preventing flooding during storms were dismissed by Broussard before Katrina hit, and that this is why so many houses in the parish ended up being destroyed. These grievances have now become a class-action lawsuit against Broussard, a fact that was downplayed in Quintanilla's report.
Also missing in this piece were recent revelations that Broussard – in a possible effort to cover his tracks – is seeking to fire the head of the East Jefferson Levee District.
Yet, with all this intrigue, Quintanilla didn’t interview Broussard concerning any of these recent allegations, and, instead, chose to address e-mail messages that were transmitted between FEMA representatives in the midst of the disaster.
What follows are highlights from an article by the Associated Press concerning the class-action suit against Broussard, a Times-Picayune article about the firing of the Levee District chief, a full transcript of Quintanilla’s report with a video link, as well as video links of both Broussard appearances on “Meet the Press.”
As reported yesterday by the Associated Press:
“Jefferson Parish residents are suing Parish President Aaron Broussard and the parish, claiming their east bank homes flooded after drainage pump operators were sent out of town before Hurricane Katrina hit.”
“Parish officials have said that 200 pump operators were evacuated to Washington Parish on August 28th, the day before the storm, and returned the following day at 7 p.m. Broussard has said that leaving the operators at their stations during a Category 4 or 5 hurricane amounts to a ‘death sentence.’
“But the plaintiffs in the lawsuit said the evacuation violates parish policy that requires that pump operators remain at their posts and that the pumps be operated under weather conditions such as those Katrina presented.”
The Times-Picayune reported on Saturday that Broussard has sent a letter to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco seeking the removal of the head of the East Jefferson Levee District, Patrick Bossetta:
“The request was the latest sign that the Aug. 28 evacuation of the pump operators has become a political powder keg for Broussard. Bossetta was among the first to go public second-guessing the administration, but other critics have come forward in Kenner, on the Parish Council and especially among the residents whose homes Katrina flooded. “
“‘Everyone makes mistakes. The mark of a true leader is admitting his mistake,’ Bossetta said. ‘The mistake was sending the pump station personnel out of East Jefferson. The half truths being perpetrated on the citizens of Jefferson by the emergency operations center under the direction of Aaron Broussard are truly a travesty.’"
Brian Williams: While they are hurling fresh criticism at both federal and local officials for the response to the big one, Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans area officials are trying to explain why they ordered water pump operators to evacuate before the hurricane hit and there is new evidence FEMA officials were struggling in the days leading up to the storm. Here with all of it, Carl Quintanilla.
Quintanilla: The walls came down today in Deanna Marcus' neighborhood. Flooded, she says, because parish officials evacuated pumping stations the night before Katrina.
Marcus: Had someone stayed there and manned the pumps, you would not be looking at my house like this, and that's what hurts.
Quintanilla: It was a call made by this man, parish president Aaron Broussard, whose appearance on "Meet the Press" in September made him a national figure, and who, this week, began a $38,000 ad campaign to explain why he did it.
Broussard: In this instance, I chose life over property. That was a good decision.
Quintanilla: One example of local officials under pressure even as they blame Washington.
Nagin: Take a hard look at FEMA. And figure out how to reorganize that agency.
Quintanilla: Today, mayor Ray Nagin testified before a house committee. As newly discovered e-mails between FEMA officials showed that agency in turmoil before the storm.
Loyola Professor: Everybody is blaming FEMA. FEMA doesn't run for elections. The rest of them do.
Quintanilla: Today, Broussard and local officials walked through pumping stations, recounting their decision to evacuate. They called it the "Doomsday Plan." Just three pages long, never before used until the head of the National Hurricane Center called with the news.
Jefferson Parish Director of Emergency Management: He called me and said, "This is it. I'm not kidding."
Pump Operator: When all this panic was going on. Everybody wanted to get out. Well, I wanted to get out too.
Quintanilla: A class-action lawsuit against the parish now alleges that “had the drainage pumps been manned, it would not have experienced flooding." Suez Wilson says she may join the suit.
Wilson: It's not like the pocketbook's full of money.
Quintanilla: Acting on frustration against local leaders who aren't just putting on the heat, but feeling it. Carl Quintanilla, NBC News, New Orleans.
Broussard’s First “Meet the Press” Appearance Video Link (courtesy of The Brad Blog)
Broussard's Second "Meet the Press" Appearance Video Link (This is a two-part link. The first segment is abridged. The second is more complete.)