updated 9/20/2005 1:19:49 PM ET 2005-09-20T17:19:49

Officials are responding to complaints that city workers helped themselves to cases of Gatorade, brand-new clothing and other donated items that were intended for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Philip Ramon, chief of staff to Kenner Mayor Philip Capitano, said the city has removed the official who had presided over the distribution.

City officials planned to investigate the alleged pilfering, but Ramon added that many employees were themselves hurricane victims.

“If they can get some supplies they need, then God bless them,” he said.

Thousands of hurricane-stricken residents of the city a few miles west of New Orleans have been lining up each day at a furniture store parking lot to get clothing, food, household items and tons of other donated supplies.

‘It’s like community property over there’
Each evening, after the site closed to the public, city employees browsed the pallets and took supplies, said Robert Shumate, a trucker from Union City, Tenn., who dropped off a load of ice last week and stayed to help distribute the goods.

“I saw it every day,” he said. “It’s like community property over there.”

Kenner police officer Mark McCormick said National Guard soldiers told him that the city official in charge of the distribution and other city employees had taken brand-new clothing from Ryder trucks and handed it out among themselves.

National Guard spokesman Capt. John Cannon said Sunday he had no information about the complaints.

But residents in the city of 70,000 said they were disgusted that municipal workers might have taken more than their share of the donations.

“It’s awful,” said Melody Kirkwood, a storm victim who came to the parking lot to get ice. “There’s a lot of people who need things, and it’s a shame they’re doing that. A real shame.”

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