After learning of Lafayette Consolidated Government’s policy of issuing credit cards to City-Parish Council members who request them — and giving each council member the autonomy to decide what travel expenses are appropriate to bill LCG for — The Independent Weekly checked in with three other cities to find out how LCG’s credit card and travel policies compares with others around the state.
Two we checked on don’t issue cards to council members, and a third does — though it has a policy for ensuring the card was used for city business only, something lacking in Lafayette.
This web-exclusive comparison coincides with The Independent Weekly’s news story on City-Parish Councilman Brandon Shelvin, who used his LCG-issued credit card to fund a three-night stay in New Orleans the weekend of last year’s Bayou Classic and stated in his expense report that the only reason for his trip was an hour-and-a-half scholarship brunch sponsored by the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus. Read more on Shelvin’s Big Easy trip here.
According to the Lake Charles City Council clerk, council members are not allowed to hold their own government-issued credit cards. When travel expenses are requested for government-approved conferences, the council clerk books hotel rooms, flights and conference registration in advance of the scheduled trip and charges the expenses to a credit card used only by the council office. Council members in Lake Charles are sometimes reimbursed for other out-of-town ventures, such as traveling to a neighboring city to examine an asset Lake Charles might need, but when asked if the policy allows for council members to charge the city for a weekend in New Orleans for one brunch event, the council clerk promptly said, “Oh, no.”
Council members in Alexandria are given credit cards to use for city-related travel, according to the Alexandria City Council clerk’s office. But unlike the Lafayette City-Parish Council, the Alexandria City Council president reviews the charges and can decide if the travel expenses were inappropriate. If it is determined the purpose of the trip or the expenses incurred were not allowed, the council member must reimburse the city.
LCG can ask a council member to reimburse the city for expenses that do not follow travel policy, but, surprisingly, no one in the city administration or on the City-Parish Council can deny travel expenses based on the purpose of the trip. Each council member has an annual $4,000 travel budget, and he or she decides what’s appropriate travel. Shelvin, apparently, thought it was perfectly acceptable to turn what should have been a day trip to New Orleans into a three-night stay. He did not reimburse LCG for any of the weekend’s expenses, and no one is saying whether he was ever asked to do so.
Shreveport, like Lake Charles, does not allow its council members to have city-issued credit cards. When conferences or other travel is called for, the council office typically arranges some of the accommodations ahead of time, but council members must pay for the bulk of their travel expenses and seek reimbursement after their return.
MAY 24 Blogger Robert Mann posts this entry about the Baton Rouge Chamber's recent report on Louisiana's higher education system. It's critical to economic development, and yet our system is facing a "funding crisis" with no way to resolve it, the report says. The Chamber says control of tuition and fees must be returned to the higher ed governing boards.
MAY 24 Here's a NBC33 story about Tyrann Mathieu. He has signed with the Arizona Cardinals, inking a $3 million, four-year deal. He gets a signing bonus of $265K, but gets another, larger bonus if he doesn't get cut from the team for doing drugs. The deal reportedly includes mandatory tests and meetings for the player.
MAY 24 Jarvis DeBerry posts here about the redonkulus rhetoric that would have us believe NOLA is a safe city with a murder problem. Maybe the city's crime stats don't compare with its murder stats because you can't manipulate a murder, he says: a dead body's a dead body. It just doesn't make sense, he says, and his readers agree: a poll asks if they believe the city is safe, and more than 90 percent say no.
MAY 24 Jindal administration officials announced Thursday that the privatization of public health care is going to cost a lot more than they budgeted for, the Advocate reports here. "I'm so surprised," said no one. Anywhere. The cost they're projecting now is more than $1 billion - a lot more than the $626 million budgeted for it. And, it's more than it cost the state to operate those hospitals. So why are we doing this again?
MAY 24 Blogger CB Forgotston ridicules the recent PR campaign by the state GOP in the wake of a legislative auditor's request to both major parties. The GOP (apparently unaware that the Dems got the same request) started yammering about being targeted because it had "killed" a tax increase. CB finds that laughable, but it's also pretty funny that the GOP was comparing this episode to the IRS scandal (Because the President has so much to do with our state auditor. Right?).
MAY 24 Politico details some recent fund-raising efforts by Sen. David Vitter, which have raised the question of his future political plans. This time, it is a $5,000 per head "bayou weekend" that includes "Cajun cooking" and an all-caps "alligator hunt," the story reports. Funds raised go to a super PAC that can spend money to support Vitter in federal or state races, the story points out.
MAY 24 The pink building on Royal in the quarter was sold at a sheriff's sale Thursday, this Picayune story reports. An injunction that would have halted the sale wasn't enforced because the family failed to post a $150,000 bond, the story reports. So the owner of the mortgages on the building bought it, for nearly $7 million. Now the feuding family will have to negotiate with that company to get a lease on the building that has housed their business for close to 60 years.
MAY 23 This post in Louisiana Voice tells us about a bill by a Winnsboro lege that would require all public high school students to take at least one Course Choice online class in order to graduate. (What?) Blogger Tom Aswell says it's a monument to "waste and corruption," especially in light of the problems he's exposed with the program in recent weeks. Idaho had a similar program, but voters removed it by a 2-1 margin, Aswell says.
There will soon be a whole lot of shakin’ going on at Benny’s Sportshack Supplement Depot, a new concept by Opelousas native Benny Nele. Located at 2002 Johnston St., the supplement shop, smoothie bar and café, featuring hot off the press paninis and wraps, plans to open in late May.
Philip deMahy Sr., a once respected New Iberia ad exec, was sentenced May 2 to spend the next two years (he faced up to 100 years) in a state penitentiary after state and federal investigators found dozens of images depicting children engaged in lewd sexual acts on his personal computer.