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.
Black Friday shopping begins; Pope visiting Turkey; oil prices decline and more national and international news for Friday, November 28, 2014.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Casual cool for Thanksgiving
Shop Lafayette goes strong
The fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
A divided 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal reversed a Lafayette district judge’s ruling absolving the co-owner of a New Iberia accounting firm of liability in an embezzlement case.
Our View: It’s reasonable, temporary and invests in Lafayette’s future.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
Three bedroom in Port Barre or two bedroom in Opelousas
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
“I am only getting a little nervous about two projects — the proposed Sasol GTL facility [not the new ethylene plant] and the proposed G2X facility — both in Lake Charles. They need a hefty difference between oil and natural gas prices to make sense.”
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Lower oil prices also might slow the growth of oil production in parts of the U.S., Canada and elsewhere because it will no longer be so profitable.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
A Lafayette woman faces up to 20 years in prison for running up more than $1 million in unauthorized charges to her company credit card.
Signs that our state’s banking industry is undergoing a downsizing in 2014 were further confirmed today with the FDIC’s latest figures showing a third straight quarter in which Louisiana lost more banks and earned less money.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
State police say a 47-year-old Lafayette man, who collected more than $83,000 in disability benefits, is accused of operating two businesses out of his home at a time when he claimed he had no income.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.