Katie Moore / Eyewitness News
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COVINGTON, La. -- One of the owners of a now-closed work release program in St. Tammany Parish fired back at the parish president after she asked him to step down from the board of Recreation District No. 4.

Jimmy Laurent wrote a letter, dated April 14, to Pat Brister contesting his removal from the board, accusing her of having racial motivations for his ouster.

Laurent is one of the co-owners of North Shore Workforce LLC, and he was the long-time chairman of the Lacombe Recreation District. That is, until Brister removed him from the board when it came to light that the recreation district used inmates from the work release program, possibly without the board's consent.

Laurent sent this letter to Brister this week. His supporters read it out loud at Wednesday night's recreation district board meeting.

In the letter, Laurent said he didn't know the inmates were hired, even though minutes from past board meetings indicate otherwise. Laurent goes on to accuse Brister of trying to '...grab all the public money' she could 'get her hands on.'

'You would rather spend the recreation district budget on a 27-acre tract in the wetlands of Bayou Lacombe, Main Street and the trace making it a tourist attraction and a feather for your cap than on recreation for kids, especially Creole or black kids,' Laurent writes in the letter.

Brister's spokesman, Ronnie Simpson, called the accusation 'outrageous, unfounded and illogical.'

One of the parish councilmembers who represents the district said there's nothing racially charged about reforms or recent changes to the district board.

'I don't think there's anything racial going on on the board or anywhere else. Certainly, there's a lot of people of different ethnic backgrounds that reside in recreation district four that participate in it. In my opinion, they all have a say so and they can all stand up and be included in any of the activities,' said Steve Stefancik, St Tammany Parish councilman, District 11.

Pat Brister appointed a long-time Lacombe community activist to replace Laurent on the board named Lorraine Williams.

This story was developed with our partners at the New Orleans Advocate.

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