Tassin indicted in "Metergate" case
Wed, 04/29/2015 - 06:00
By Raymond L. Daye
Former Marksville City Councilman Richard Tassin was indicted by a Grand Jury April 16 on a charge that he stole water from a city water line to serve his apartments on S. Main Street.
In an unrelated matter, the Grand Jury found insufficient evidence to indict Tassin on a charge that he threatened a state plumbing inspector who was inspecting plumbing at one of Tassin’s properties.
Tassin’s indictment is the only criminal case arising from Marksville’s “Metergate.” Tassin dismisses the indictment as being politically motivated.
The issue began last year with an anonymous tipster alleging the city administration intentionally set meters to record less water than was being used, thus giving favored businessmen very low water bills. When Tassin pressed that issue, another anonymous tipster pointed out that Tassin Apts.’ water bill actually decreased after it doubled in size, which didn’t seem logical.
An investigation into the apartments’ water usage uncovered a “by-pass” system that allowed water to be redirected from one water line to serve the apartments and a barn owned by Tassin further down the road, effectively avoiding water meters on both lines, according to city officials.
A related “Metergate” issue was an allegation of financial improprieties at the city Water Department. The Legislative Auditor’s Office investigated those allegations and concluded there were no “reportable issues” found in its investigation.
The initial issue of faulty meters was resolved after it was discovered that some large commercial meters were set to record too much water being used while others recorded too little. The problem was caused by the new computerized meters being coded incorrectly -- recording 10 x more or 10 x less than the actual amount used.
In the other matter brought before the Grand Jury, Tassin was cleared of accusations of “threatening a public official” which were filed after police say he interfered with a state plumbing inspector on Tassin’s property. The Grand Jury returned a “no true bill” in that case, meaning it found the charges were not supported by the evidence presented.
Tassin said his water bill now is the same as it was three years ago.
“Where’s the theft,” he said.
He said city officials “turned this around and put it on me” after he sought an investigation into why some businesses’ water bills were significantly lower than they should have been.