Feds Raid Office of Mississippi Governor's Kin

The FBI has raided the office of a company owned by the wife of Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour's nephew. Rosemary Barbour's firm Alcatec LLC has a large contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to maintain thousands of travel trailers housing residents displaced by hurricane Katrina. There is no evidence that Governor Barbour is involved with the company.

Rosemary Barbour is married to Charles Barbour, the nephew of the Governor and himself a county supervisor. A spokesman at the FBI field office in Jackson Mississippi would not comment on the ongoing investigation but said agents had conducted a "court approved" search of a business late Thursday.

Though local Gulf Coast media has reported that Alcatec received more than $28 million in contracts from FEMA to maintain the trailers, CBS News has discovered this contract which shows that Alcatec was awarded a five year contract that amounted to $299,376,647 in January 2006.

The FEMA contracts are subject to annual renewal and Alcatec lost its contract in May when it was not renewed. The company was already under investigation by the Department of Labor, according to former employees, for reportedly breaking pay and overtime rules required under the FEMA contracts. Alcatec may not have been fulfilling other key aspects of its contracts as well.

"They were asking me to lie," Patrick Parker, a trailer maintenance technician, told CBS News. Parker said that in order to meet its contract, Alcatec required him to inspect and provide maintenance on 20 FEMA trailers per day. But Parker had a list of 300-400 trailers he had to maintain on a regular basis. Those trailers were spread out over many miles of Mississippi coastline and he said there were not enough hours in a day to get the job done. "(Rosemary) Barbour said you had to do 20 a day-or you would lose your contract if you don't." He added, "They asked us to turn in maintenance checklists like this one that were undated," he said.

Parker no longer works at Alcatec and says the company owes him back pay.
A woman at Alcatec's office would not comment on the FBI raid and referred calls to FEMA and the FBI. Rosemary Barbour told the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, ""We have been cooperating and providing documents to FEMA and the FBI for some time and we will continue to assist them ... to resolve this matter in a satisfactory manner."

The awarding of FEMA contracts raised eyebrows in the months after Katrina hit because of the familial connection between Rosemary and her husband's uncle Haley Barbour. Alcatec, which is listed as providing real estate services, qualifies as a Section 8, minority owned business because Rosemary Barbour was born in Guatemala. Barbour said in 2005 that she used her maiden name when she made contract bids so she would not get preferential treatment because of her family name. The company won early contracts after Katrina providing portable toilets and shower facilities to the Department of Defense before moving on to the FEMA travel trailer maintenance contract.

Parker, a skilled general contractor, said he is not a certified RV or trailer technician but was hired by Alcatec to maintain and do repairs on the travel trailers. Several sources familiar with the FEMA trailer contracts told CBS News that many of the companies that were hired by FEMA to maintain the trailers do not have certified trailer technicians doing the work. Why is this important? With people still living in the temporary trailers 22 months after the storm, maintaining them well is important. Fire departments across the Gulf are reporting an increasing number of fires in trailers, many caused by poor maintenance. There are no indications that Alcatec is directly linked to trailer fires.

But as an example, a fire in a FEMA trailer in Gulfport, Mississippi on June 11th left two people homeless was caused by an electrical short in the trailer. Patrick Sullivan, Gulfport fire chief, said his department is seeing an increase in incidents involving shoddy equipment inside FEMA trailers. He told a local paper, ""But the bottom line is, we see more and more of (these incidents)," he said, "especially if (residents) use them any length of time."
  • Michael Rey

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