The pumping stations themselves are huge, sturdy, blockhouse-type buildings. None sustained any major damage from the winds. In fact, I received some reports that area policemen, during the height of the hurricane, actually sought refuge inside a pumping station, recognizing it as the safest place around. Sure enough, they emerged completely unscathed, as was the expensive – but completely idle – pumping station (What Aaron Broussard Didn’t Tell Us)
As it turned out, there was a lot Aaron Broussard didn’t tell – and what he did tell often conflicted with what Jefferson Parish Emergency Management Director Walter Maestri told plaintiffs’ lawyers in a deposition taken for the “pump flood” case:
“Maestri said he wrote two versions of the Doomsday Plan: one in 1998, during Parish President Tim Coulon’s administration when Broussard was council chairman, and another in March 2005, a revision requested by Broussard through Tim Whitmer, his top aide who supervises department directors.
On one hand, I understand my suggestion of Hell waiting for high water was, as one reader wrote in an email, “a leap for even this avid conspiracy junkie to wrap around”. On the other, it’s a “leap” for me to think the guys were just kicking ideas around and decided the Doomsday Plan needed a revision – one that would change “the earlier version of the plan” and evacuate pump operators to distant Washington Parish rather than shelter “essential public workers at Louis Armstrong International Airport”.
However, Maestri testified that’s pretty much what happened when “Plaintiffs’ attorney Darleen Jacobs asked Maestri to describe the specific order from Whitmer, chief administrative assistant”:
“When we drafted or were instructed to modify and edit this particular plan,” Maestri answered, “Mr. Whitmer called me and said that he had discussed this — the first edition, that is, the 1998 edition of the plan — with the parish president, and in light of some data that we had received, some studies that we had received, the parish president wanted a new plan drafted, and I will quote directly, the parish president instructed the CAA that he ‘wanted no one to die on his watch.’¤”
While I doubt Mr. Whitmer accurately described what motivated the requested change, the parish president had a different problem – Broussard testified he didn’t know the Doomsday Plan called for the evacuation of pump operators!
The testimony[of Maestri] contradicts Broussard’s deposition, when Jacobs asked him to describe the plan’s inception.
“Your question says that I knew the Doomsday Plan was going to be implemented,” Broussard said. “I’ve already testified that I did not know this plan existed calling for the evacuation of the pump operators.”
Maestri’s deposition also clashes with Broussard’s account in the retelling of how involved the parish president was in Katrina preparations.
Facing answers from Broussard that he knew little to nothing of his administration’s activities in the days before the storm, Jacobs asked him whether it was his responsibility as “head of the ship” to know what type of plan the parish would implement during the impending disaster.
“I would have assumed that all directors would forward to me all information that I needed to know on a need-to-know basis,” Broussard said.
Jacobs pressed him for more details about his whereabouts as the storm approached.
“Did you make any attempt to meet with your directors or emergency management chiefs or personnel to determine what plan they had for the parish with regard to the evacuation of essential personnel, such as pump operators, prior to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina?” she asked.
“No, ma’am,” Broussard said.
Five months later, Maestri testified that Broussard was at the West Bank emergency operations center on Ames Boulevard throughout the weekend before Katrina and during an Aug. 26, 2005, meeting, three days before the storm’s landfall.
Maestri said normal procedure called for all department directors, council members and other key administration members to be briefed on the threat and discuss preparations during such a session.
“Was Aaron Broussard present at the meeting?” Jacobs asked.
“Yes, he was,” Maestri said.
“And how long did the meeting take place?” she asked.
“Again, my recollection would be 45 minutes to an hour,” he said.
Jacobs asked if the Doomsday Plan came up during the meeting. Maestri said it wasn’t specifically discussed or handed out. Then he indicated that the room of parish decision-makers never specifically broached the subject of evacuating pump operators.
“There was never any segregation of pump operators as opposed to the other 700 or 650 individuals who remained in the parish,” he said. “So the pump operators, explicitly, exclusively, no.”
Jacobs responded: “Was the evacuation of essential personnel discussed?”
“Yes,” Maestri said.
In the next series of questions, Maestri admitted that contrary to his previous statement, the Doomsday Plan was, in fact, discussed during the meeting that Broussard attended.
“And what was the gist of that discussion?” Jacobs asked.
“Depending upon the reports received from the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service, it was possible that Annex E, Appendix 10 might be activated,” Maestri said.
“And that is the Doomsday Plan?” she asked.
“That’s correct,” he said.
What a plan! After they “discovered [sic] no building in the parish could stand up to a Category 4 or 5 hurricane”, it was decided “everyone, except some select administrators, plus police and fire first responders, would be evacuated in the face of such a storm…” However:
“Providing an exception to Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard’s unyielding stance that he evacuated all rank-and-file government workers before Hurricane Katrina to protect their lives…Walter Maestri, Broussard’s emergency management chief, said this week that he authorized the workers — nine on the West Bank and six in East Jefferson — to ride out Katrina inside water treatment plants so they could maintain potable water for thousands of patients who could not leave local hospitals because of fragile health…
Broussard has maintained with fervor that, acting as Jefferson’s legally designated authority under an emergency declaration, he sent all public employees except 11 top directors into exile because he valued their lives above the loss of private property to flooding or other forces. Maestri, however, said Broussard knew at the time about his decision to keep water department workers at their posts and did not overrule it.
If only the often conflicting and confusing information ended there, it might be possible to sort out what actually happened – but, alas, it does not.
Broussard and Maestri said they never considered assigning essential employees, including the pump operators, to ride out the storm at three Jefferson hospitals — West Jefferson Medical Center, East Jefferson General Hospital or Ochsner Clinic Foundation — that operated without pause during Katrina.
‘That’s not the plan”.
Maestri developed the original 1998 plan while working for former parish president Tim Coulon. In December 2003, Coulon was awarded the prestigious Bronze Order of the de Fleury Medal by the United States Army Corps of Engineers in December 2003:
During the past eight years, Coulon led Jefferson Parish in a partnership with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers which has resulted in over $400 million in flood improvements being designed and constructed in Jefferson Parish.
Say what? Yeah, $400 million and the result was:
Jefferson Parish committed far more resources to emergency management than Orleans Parish. It has a Director, Walter Maestri, who has served in that position for nine years, and 11 permanent staff . During times of emergency, the staff swells to more than 100. Prior to Katrina, the EOC had approximately 80 land lines into the building, with two high-capacity T-1 data-transmission lines that connected to all of the office’s data systems. The Parish had its own 800 megahertz system for first responders and public works, together with an 800 megahertz system provided by the state. The Parish had a 911 call center, with the calls being routed to four operational units – police, fire, emergency medical, or public works. The Jefferson Parish Emergency Operations Plan was one of only two EOPs in the State of Louisiana that had been officially approved by FEMA. The other was St. Tammany Parish.
What is known as the Doomsday plan was “Just three pages long, never before used until the head of the National Hurricane Center called with the news” that Katrina was a big one – three pages, “Annex E, Appendix 10” to a comprehensive plan for responding to more than just weather emergencies.
Three pages that caught the eye of Aaron Broussard and Tim Whitmer some six months plus before Katrina. Three pages revised in March 2005 on order of Broussard via Whitmer.
So, was it a “Doomsday Plan” or a plan for doomsday? Learn more in the follow-up to this post and as SLABBED reports, you decide!