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.
Law firm unveils newly renovated 200-year-old building.
UL grad named web developer at BBR Creative
Lafayette-based emergency department staffing and management company raises $120 million in senior credit facilities through GE Capital, Healthcare Financial Services.
High-rise apartment building, parking garage, hotel and retail part of new development.
A common thread runs through many of those we oppose: Enshrining in the Constitution protections on programs and their funding sources has had a disastrous effect on Louisiana’s most important economic development engine.
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
The number of Louisianans with jobs continued to set records in September, but the state's unemployment rate kept rising as new job seekers keep entering the market.
Three bedroom cottage or three bedroom ranch
Sheer lace perfection
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Louisiana is drowning, quickly.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Oscar de la Renta dies; Pistorius sentenced; World Series begins and more national and international news for Tuesday, October 21, 2014.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
Three bedroom in Lawtell or two bedroom in Rayne
Fall's new darling
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
An investment group led by Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets will buy the Louisiana power company Cleco for $3.4 billion.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
"I feel it is appropriate to speak up when there are topics that are being bandied about with little or no factual data to back them."
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.