St. Tammany Parish President Mike Cooper clarifies the language and addresses concerns regarding the Executive Order signed on August 3, 2021.
“We are not taking control of any property or belongings,” said Cooper. “This language, that was included in every emergency Executive Order, is designed to protect citizens during an emergency when the resources are otherwise not available. I want our citizens to rest assured that we are not assuming control of any private properties with regard to COVID-19.”
The language in the third paragraph of the sixth page of the Executive Order mirrors the statutory language of La. Rev. Statute 29:727, which provides the powers available to parish presidents in a declared emergency. That statute states, in part, that when a parish president declares a local disaster or emergency, he may, “subject to any applicable requirements for compensation, commandeer or utilize any private property if he finds this necessary to cope with the local disaster.”
For example, the provision allows the government the ability to use a citizen’s boat to rescue flood victims, a commercial parking lot for the distribution of food and water or a drug store’s medical supplies, if necessary, to treat patients in an emergency. The government would still be responsible for paying the property owner for use of their property.
The statute has provided these powers to parish presidents since 1993, and the language has been included in St. Tammany Parish Executive Orders since at least 2005, spanning three administrations.
“To my knowledge, the only time this power was used in St. Tammany Parish was in the seizing of a radio station post Hurricane Katrina to provide public communication. I pray that this is a power I will never have to use. Please know that my priority will continue to be the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of St. Tammany.”