hit tracker <body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d23615820\x26blogName\x3dCenLamar:+A+Blog+on+Life+in+Alexandri...\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dBLACK\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://cenlamar.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://cenlamar.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d7276229209213654946', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

Our View: Citizens stiffed as Alexandria, Cleco dawdle Everyone knew the fraud fight between the city of Alexandria and Cleco Corp. would get much worse before it got better, but no one could have predicted this.

Right now, city residents are seeing gridlock in action. Make that inaction.

Today, city officials are no closer to reviewing the Pineville-based electric company's billing records than they were so long ago -- way back when someone outside of city government spoke up and said, hey, you might be getting ripped off -- big time.

The fact that a review of the records has not even started does not bode well for residents and business owners in Alexandria, those who buy their electricity from the city, which buys it from Cleco. Indeed, it does not bode well for all city residents -- especially the tens of thousands of taxpayers who continue to wonder why their local officials, elected and otherwise, do not spend taxpayer dollars wisely and do not make sure they get what they paid for,

Either these city officials cannot do the job, or they will not do the job. We suspect some of each is true, depending on which office in City Hall is talking or not talking to the public; feuding or not feuding with the office down the hall; plotting to "get" someone for some sleight, real or perceived; or planning to get something for themselves, a relative or a friend.

To the taxpayers on the outside looking in, dysfunction appears to be the order of the day. That, by the way, is also what Cleco officials see, and their attorneys will make good use of the confusion and disarray that come with it.

For its part, Cleco has chosen a path that has made an ugly -- and perhaps criminal -- situation even uglier. The utility clearly does not care what its behavior looks like to the city of Alexandria -- or to any of its other customers, for that matter. Through various legal maneuvers, the company has succeeded in stalling the review process, blocking reasonable requests for information, and dodging questions about accountability.

All of that, the utility seems to think, will ensure a level playing field when the parties finally do sit down with a pile of paperwork that will show two important things: how well or how poorly the company treated the city of Alexandria and its electric customers, and how well or how poorly city officials monitored the spending of millions of taxpayer dollars.

At the same time, Cleco's maneuvering accomplishes something else for the company -- delay, delay, delay. The hope, of course, is that the longer it takes to take a step in the review process, the more uncomfortable things get for certain people in City Hall. Perhaps someone will eventually say, Enough! Then the whole thing can be settled behind closed doors for 10 cents on the dollar.

It wouldn't be the first time something like that happened. You'd better believe it's being discussed.

Originally published July 7, 2006