Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Councilman Brandon Shelvin appears to have had a helluva good time at last year’s Bayou Classic — all on LCG’s nickel. By Heather Miller
Picture a three-night stay at a luxury hotel along the river in New Orleans, coupled with the added ambiance of football fanfare that fills the Crescent City every year when rivals Southern and Grambling meet at the Superdome for the Bayou Classic.
If you’ve never experienced that kind of getaway, City-Parish Councilman Brandon Shelvin could tell you about the hot spots to enjoy during this weekend filled with rich tradition for both universities’ scores of fans.
In late November of last year, Shelvin spent three nights at the Hilton Riverside Hotel in New Orleans — all paid for with a Lafayette Consolidated Government-issued credit card in Shelvin’s name, according to City-Parish Council travel records obtained by The Independent Weekly. The reason behind the four-day, three-night trip? Attending the 26th annual Bayou Classic Scholarship Jazz Brunch, an hour-and-a-half Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus event held Nov. 27, the Saturday after the Southern-Grambling match.
In terms of cost, Shelvin’s $900 taxpayer-funded trip with no recorded LCG purpose other than the short brunch could pale in comparison to other council member adventures, such as City-Parish Councilman Don Bertrand’s $2,500 week in Switzerland in October, representing the city with two area state lawmakers at the International Association of Francophone Mayors’ annual conference.
But the District 3 councilman, amid a long list of legal battles stemming from his financial troubles, is one of only two councilmen to possess an LCG credit card — and the only one to have made charges on it for a non-LCG sanctioned trip.
City-Parish Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux is the other cardholder on the council, though an Independent Weekly review of council members’ travel charges for the last three months of 2010 showed no irregular charges for Boudreaux or any other members. Boudreaux’s only travel charges were incurred on his trip to the National League of Cities conference in Denver, which also was attended by other councilmen.
So why opt for an LCG credit card instead of the reimbursement system used by other council members?
“I think sometimes it’s a principle issue,” Boudreaux says. “Some individuals probably don’t think they should be available or allowed; some do. To me it’s the simplest thing. It keeps my council business separate from my personal business. Hopefully the person is in a position to properly manage what he or she is doing with it.”
|City-Parish Councilman Brandon Shelvin, right, has offered no explanation or documentation for why he charged a weekend in New Orleans to local government last November. “Accounting determines what’s acceptable,” says Council Chairman Kenneth Boudreaux, left.|
A resolution passed by the previous council in 2005 actually prohibits council members from possessing their own LCG-issued credit cards. Boudreaux says the resolution has not been amended since then, but maintains that a meeting with the city-parish attorney, the chief financial officer and the former council chairman concluded that changing the language to allow credit cards for council members was not necessary — as long as the outlined travel policies were followed.
Shelvin’s three-night trip violated the council travel policy adopted in 2005, which states that lodging expenses are only reimbursable for the night before a government-related event is scheduled and departure from the activity the day after it concludes. His third night in New Orleans, according to the resolution, should not have been charged to LCG.
The councilman also swiped the card at a Henderson gas station to fuel up for the getaway, representing another minor infraction, according to the travel policy. Fuel prices are reimbursed by submitting mileage for the trip and cannot be charged directly to the card. The council clerk’s office promptly subtracted Shelvin’s inappropriate fuel charges from his per diem meal allowance in the overall expense report.
The finance department reviews the expenditures of LCG-sanctioned trips to ensure they coincide with travel policy, says City Parish CFO Lorrie Toups, but no one on the council or within the administration can approve or deny the expenditures based on the purpose of an elected official’s travel. Say what?
Each council member is allotted $4,000 per year for travel, plus an additional $1,000 a year for conference registration costs, but Boudreaux says out-of-town travel procedure typically calls for accommodations to be booked in advance through the council clerk’s office. It’s unclear whether Shelvin even requested the travel expenses and hotel reservations before heading to New Orleans, or submitted the receipts to LCG after the charges were made. The council clerk’s office declined to answer those questions.
To see how LCG's travel and credit card policies compare with other cities around the state, check out The Independent Weekly's blog, "The road less traveled."
The councilman’s most recent questionable expenses add to an already lengthy list of financial and ethical issues uncovered by The Independent Weekly over the past year (see The Ind’s March 2010 cover story, “The Problem with Brandon Shelvin”). The coverage also cast doubt on whether he met the residency requirements outlined in the parish’s home rule charter when he ran for office in 2007.
“No one council member, even the chairman, controls the behavior, actions or activities of another,” Boudreaux says. “When it comes to approval of travel, that’s between the council members and what they share with the accounting department. Everything’s monitored through our policies on purchases. Accounting determines what’s acceptable; if not, you’re going to be held accountable. I would encourage you to call [Shelvin].”
The Independent Weekly did call Shelvin on his cell phone. When reached, he hung up — again.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Pat Bowlen steps down; typhoon caused Taiwan plane crash; Arizona execution botched and more national and international news for Thursday, July 24, 2014.
Thousands of people who bought health insurance through the marketplace created by the federal health care overhaul face price hikes next year that could top 10 percent.
Three bedroom traditional Lafayette home or three bedroom Breaux Bridge home
Style market slated for old Artesia
The city prosecutor has released the case file for Lafayette Parish School Board member Tehmi Chassion’s simple battery complaint against Superintendent Pat Cooper, and the seven witness statements given to police illustrate two very different scenarios.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Louisiana fell one spot in an annual national ranking of child well-being that looks at poverty, education and health access.
A federal judge has decided he doesn't need to hear more arguments in the case of a gay couple who want a Louisiana marriage license.
Saints again bring playoff aspirations into 2014 campaign.
New details in the case against the man arrested for last week’s bomb threat and bank robbery has surfaced, including a MidSouth Bank surveillance video showing the alleged suspect attempt an early-morning bank robbery.
Citing conflicting witness accounts, the city prosecutor will not pursue Tehmi Chassion’s allegation of simple battery against Superintendent Pat Cooper.
Smoked meat, fresh sides and the best boudin around
Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers opens on Johnston.
Cirque du Soleil effortlessly combines circus art with beloved Michael Jackson hits.
Kelly Guidry Open House
Parents and teachers who support the Common Core education standards sued Gov. Bobby Jindal Tuesday over his actions against the multi-state standards, accusing him of illegally meddling in education policy.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
An arrest was announced this morning in connection with last week’s bomb scare at UL Lafayette.
Attorneys, judges and others interviewed by LaPolitics expect 15 to 20 district judge races this year.
"I feel like I'm under siege," an attorney said recently over drinks at Galatoire's Bistro in Baton Rouge. "We all do. Every time I turn around somebody wants a check. District attorney races. The judges. They're killing us."
As a requirement for running for Congress in the 6th District, former Gov. Edwin Edwards has filed his financial disclosure statement with the U.S. House showing his income in 2013 totaling $242,787.
Unlike those swindled by Bernie Madoff, the victims of Texas businessman Robert Allen Stanford’s Ponzi scheme won’t be getting any relief from the Securities Investor Protection Corp.’s emergency fund after a recent appellate court ruling.
Acadiana's Top 50 Private Companies
It would be an understatement to say Schumacher Group had a challenging year in 2013.
Hampton Toyota has been serving Acadiana as the premier Toyota dealership for more than 10 years. And now, the glossy Johnston Street dealership is looking forward to a makeover.
Even when Floyd Degueyter is on “vacation” he’s hard at work.
As the second largest metal heat treating company in the country, Analytic Stress Relieving Inc. has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception in 1979.
When the Prohibition era came to an end in 1933, Joseph R. Streva saw an opportunity to make a little extra money to supplement his day job.
When a hurricane hits, Brent Mouton doesn’t run. The convenience store chain owner is proof that the challenges of mother nature can almost break a business, but Mouton learned to grow out of temporary closure from near devastation in 2002 and of lost potential revenue.