NEW ORLEANS — During a live debate at WWL-TV’s studios Monday night, two of the three candidates for Jefferson Parish President threw facts and accusations at each other that lead to some very heated exchanges, and one candidate asking the other not to touch her.
We’ll be verifying some of the statements in that exchange.
It began with John Young asking Cynthia Lee-Sheng the question that set it all off.
“Will you commit tonight to the people of Jefferson Parish that you will maintain your opposition to the construction of a $100 million cyanide plant in Waggaman, Louisiana?” asked Young.
Lee-Sheng didn't say yes or no. She said litigation between the so-called cyanide plant and the parish will dictate the future of the project.
"The council did vote for the storage of cyanide, and then we did rescind that vote,” said Lee-Sheng.
Lee-Sheng and the rest of the council voted in January of 2018 in favor of the Cornerstone company to expand in Waggaman.
15 months later, after a wave of public outcry, the Jefferson Parish Council including Lee-Sheng rescinded the company's permit.
"But I have to point out the hypocrisy of Mr. Young, who voted for that measure, not only did he vote for the expansion of that chemical facility," Lee-Sheng said. "He was at the groundbreaking for these three companies for a billion-dollar investment," said Lee-Sheng.
To further make her point, Lee-Sheng pulled up a photo.
"This is Mr. Young at the groundbreaking," said Lee-Sheng.
Her first statement is false.
John Young never voted in the cyanide plant debate. He was parish president in 2013. Parish presidents don't vote on issues before the council.
Her second statement is partially true.
It is true that Young was at the 2013 groundbreaking, but it was for a different company called Dyno Nobel to build an ammonia plant on the same site in Waggaman.
One day after announcing the deal with Dyno Nobel in 2013, there was a massive explosion at an ammonia plant in Texas. After that incident, Young defended the safety of the future ammonia plant.
Story continues below video
"In fact, at the announcement yesterday, they stressed this plant, once it's built in Jefferson Parish in the state of Louisiana, companies from all over the world will come will see how this plant operates,” said Young in April of 2013.
As for the Cornerstone site, it's been producing chemicals including cyanide since 1952. In its expansion plans, the company said it would not produce anymore cyanide than it does now.
The public's opposition, and now from these two candidates, is against chemicals that have been in the parish for decades.
To watch the full debate, click here
Editor's Note: After this story was published, Cynthia Lee Sheng pointed out a 2010 council vote where At-Large Councilman John Young did vote to approve a permit at the site of the controversial plant. Young asserts his vote was for the permit of an already existing facility at the Waggaman site and did not include any new construction of production or storage facilities. Both candidates point to the same parish document to support their claims.