City Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen said Friday night she has no ties to any money from Entergy New Orleans when it comes to supporting a controversial power plant being built in her district.
"Any money that VIET earned from the work, I did not directly receive impact on it," Nguyen said.
Nguyen came under fire after records revealed that Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training, the non-profit group she was once executive director of, got $6,000 in grants and payments from Entergy as part of their campaign to approve the power plant.
The plant spurred controversy after dozens of people in the community spoke out against it being built.
"We used the money to basically pay our translator and the services that we provide," Nguyen said. "And the only involvement that I have with the translation work is basically ... like the middle person where Entergy or any organization that would like or need a translator, they will contact me and they will identify the work that is requested and I would then forward it to my programs director."
During a May 18 press conference to announce an investigation into Entergy's use of paid actors to show support for the power plant, Nguyen and the rest of the City Council said they never received any money from Entergy.
"At that point, the question as I remember is, 'Did you receive any money toward your campaign?' In which I did not, OK? I did not receive any contribution of Entergy towards my campaign when I launched my campaign in July when I began to run for City Council," Nguyen said.
Two other top officials, Bill Rouselle and Bob Tucker who worked on Mayor LaToya Cantrell's campaign are also said to have been on Entergy's payroll.
Rouselle, who served as Cantrell's chief strategist, spoke with Eyewitness News at his public relations firm Bright Moments.
While he did not want to go on camera, Rouselle admitted that his firm worked for Entergy during a two-and-a-half-year period, providing Entergy information on community concerns about the power plant.
"I think the mayor and Council member Nguyen should simply, at a minimum, disclose the full extent of the cross of consultants as it were," WWL-TV Political Analyst Clancy DuBos said.
Entergy New Orleans released a statement saying:
Entergy began working with VIET for professional Spanish and Vietnamese translation services prior to Cyndi Nguyen’s campaign for City Council. Entergy and VIET are long-time community partners and any suggestion of political motivations behind this partnership are inaccurate.
Entergy’s relationships with the organizations we support span decades, and we base our charitable giving decisions on the merits of proposed programs, consistent with our mission and the needs of the community. In the past two years alone, we’ve donated more than $10 million to more than 275 organizations in the City of New Orleans, and a total of $36 million to nearly 2,800 organizations across all the communities we serve. Additionally, our employees have donated more than 200,000 volunteer hours to organizations about which they care.