New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux is doing right by the public in posting his office’s monthly credit card statements online. Other government entities across our region should do the same. The inspector general this week announced that statements for his city-issued credit card will be posted in the Public Records section of the office’s website, at http://www.nolaoig.org.
“The citizens have a right to know how we spend city funds, and this is one small part of providing them with that information,” Mr. Quatrevaux said.
Credit card abuse has been rampant across several public agencies in our metro area in recent years. Earlier this month, former French Market Corp. director Kenneth Ferdinand was charged with a single count of felony theft. The charge came almost a year after the agency’s board pushed Mr. Ferdinand out amid questions about $20,000 in credit card charges he made, mostly in restaurant and for bar tabs.
But Mr. Ferdinand was a relative penny-pincher compared to Jim Bridger, the former head of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad. Between 2007 and 2009, Mr. Bridger charged more than $108,000 to the agency’s credit card, including routine meals and alcohol at local eateries. In a stunning dearth of accountability, auditors found that 700 of Mr. Bridger’s 801 charges lacked detailed receipts or any receipts at all. Mr. Bridger faces state charges of malfeasance in office and felony theft for other alleged abuses unrelated to his credit card use, though federal investigators are still probing his actions.
The list goes on. In the past two years, scandals involving credit card abuse have rocked Mandeville city government, Louis Armstrong International Airport, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association and separate housing agencies in Slidell and Jefferson and St. John the Baptist parishes.
The best solution is to cut up public credit cards or at least to severely limit their use. Legislative auditors also have advised establishing clear credit card policies and banning charges for entertainment and gifts. Those are necessary steps.
But they are not enough. Every public entity in our metro area that allows employees to use credit cards should follow Mr. Quatrevaux’s lead and post the card statements online. Knowing that the public can easily review all charges would force public officials and employees to evaluate whether an expense truly serves a public purpose.
That alone could go a long way toward preventing further credit card abuses.
Archive for June, 2011
More drama inside the city Engineering Department. It all started with the boss, head engineer Sinyale Morrison. She’s under investigation over allegations she paid an employee thousands of dollars in unearned overtime pay, which would amount to payroll fraud. It lead state auditors to search the department for possible criminal activity. All that overtime money was going to one city employee: Ricardo Nance. But, that same employee who allegedly pocketed thousands of dollars in overtime, also found himself the target of a different type of investigation with the cops.
Morrison called Monroe Police on Ricardo Nance, during an incident back in March, when he allegedly threatened to open fire on the job. Nance was later charged with two counts of simple assault, but allowed to keep his job. After that, the longtime Chief Surveyor, Clovis Haley suddenly resigned from the Engineering Department. He said, he feared for his life at work and the stress was too much to handle. Now, that the Engineering Department’s been invaded by fraud investigators and the police– the plot thickens.
One of Morrison’s own workers, a Senior Survey Technician named Paul Oxley, has filed a grievance against his own boss.
Oxley cooperated with the city Human Resource Director, Mike Ryhmes while Morrison was under an investigation for payroll fraud. Oxley testified that Ricardo Nance never came to work, and that Nance’s overtime hours were bogus.
In this grievance- Oxley says Morrison is discriminating against him because he shared documents with Human Resource director, Mike Rhymes about Nance’s lack of work, and his continued absence from the job. Oxley goes on to say because Nance never comes to work and clovis haley resigned he’s left doing everyone’s job without a pay increase.
AMITE—Attorneys for the Tangipahoa Parish School Board could as early as today submit a “modification” to their 2009 desegregation plan in a move that could, in essence, be the first step to unitary status for the district which has been under Court mandate for more than 40 years.
On Tuesday, the Board voted 7-2 to reduce their 262-page desegregation plan to less than a dozen major talking points, all without either a new tax increase or the potential for parishwide busing, subject to Judicial approval.
Only Sandra Bailey Simmons and Andy Anderson voted against the proposal, which attorneys say mirrors a number of the talking points plaintiffs’ counsel indicated would be in line toward a possible settlement of the 46-year-old lawsuit.
The Tangipahoa Parish School Board voted on a modified desegregation plan with no new taxes Tuesday to present to federal Judge Ivan Lemelle.
In a 7-to-2 vote, with school board members Andy Anderson and Sandra Bailey-Simmons opposed, the board took attorney Charles Patin’s recommendation for a plan that will offer alternatives to the judge imposing a tax or busing.
The defendants’ modified plan calls for no salary increases for employees, no new art and music teachers at the elementary level, construction of three new schools rather than six, no new facility for the Career Education Center and dispersing Loranger students to Hammond and Amite high schools.
Under the modified plan, students from the extreme north end of Loranger would attend Amite High and those from the extreme south end of Loranger would attend Hammond High Magnet. Loranger students in the central part of Loranger would attend Loranger High, said school board attorney Chris Moody.
Amid increasing scrutiny of credit-card use by public officials in and around New Orleans, the city’s inspector general Edouard Quatrevaux has opted to post his office’s monthly statements online for public viewing.
The possible abuse of credit cards by various public officials, ranging from former Mandeville mayor Eddie Price to former Public Belt Railroad general manager Jim Bridger, has made headlines in recent years. Just two weeks ago, Kenneth Ferdinand, the former director of the French Market Corp., was charged with theft in connection with his alleged use of a public charge card for private purposes.
In a prepared statement, Quatrevaux said: “The citizens have a right to know how we spend City funds, and this is one small part of providing them with that information.”
From the Springfield (Missouri) News-Leader
By Didi Tang
By Roseann Moring
The school board has misled the court concerning funds already available for implementation of the current desegregation plan, according to plaintiffs’ attorney Nelson Taylor.
Taylor filed a motion Friday morning asking the court to order the Tangipahoa Parish School Board to implement the current desegregation plan. Taylor also requested a hearing to determine any court action necessary to remove obstacles that hinder the implementation of the plan.
“I think (Taylor) is asking the court to order taxes needed to fund the original plan, because we cannot implement the plan without that money,” said school system attorney Charles Patin.
According to his motion, Taylor disagrees with that assessment.
“Evidence will show that the additional funds actually needed to fully implement the current desegregation plan are considerably less than what was presented in the school taxes recently rejected by the public,” Taylor wrote in his motion.
The Town of Jonesboro’s controversial mayor Leslie Thompson is planning to call for a tax election within the next year, sources have told Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO). The subject was hinted at last week by the mayor.
At last week’s special call meeting of the Board of Aldermen, Thompson said, “We as a council are going to have to do some real serious thinking about where we are going to go.” He added, “Do we start to not do as many streets, or do we start talking about dedicated fire taxes for the fire department – those kind of things.”
On page four of twelve on the proposed 2011/2012 budget, the line item account number 01-5-403.000 “Election” has budgeted $10,000. The only elections now scheduled are for state and parish elections this fall, that are paid for by the state and parishes.
See here the proposed 6/30/11-6/30/12 line item budget.
One other item of interest in the budget is an $8 thousand increase in the line item for “salaries – supervisor,” which is the line item for the Fire Chief’s salary. The amount for last year was $34 thousand, compared to $42 thousand in the proposed budget.
There will be a public meeting on the budget Thursday afternoon at 5 PM at Jonesboro City Hall, 128 Allen Avenue.