With clear evidence Chris Williams was instructing students on the business of politics and claiming those same hours on another government-funded contract, it’s time he learned his lesson.
Undoubtedly, an enormous amount of pressure is coming down on UL Lafayette to review the work Chris Williams has been doing at the university since he first secured a full-time job as a political science instructor in January 2008 — a move pulled right from the good ol’ boys’ playbook that former UL President Ray Authement shamelessly tried to pass off as an emergency appointment. Authement hired Williams just as he was preparing to leave the Lafayette City-Parish Council.
In August 2008, Williams was transferred to the UL Department of Special Services, where he now works full-time during the day as a counselor in the Upward Bound and Talent Search programs. The Independent Weekly first uncovered a 40-hour per week contract Williams had (until he was fired from it Aug. 13) with the Lafayette Housing Authority as a case manager for the federal Disaster Housing Assistance Program, for which his compensation increased from $11 an hour in 2007 to $37 an hour, and also revealed that he works for the nonprofit community group SMILE through another contract funded by federal stimulus dollars. With his UL salary of $41,000 (plus $2,000 each semester for teaching a night class), and DHAP and SMILE contracts, Williams’ herculean workload amounted to about $200,000 a year.
And while UL President Joe Savoie would not comment on Williams’ future, he did confirm that an inquiry is under way. “The university is working with the [Louisiana] Legislative Auditor, reviewing all relevant records,” Savoie says. “When that review is complete, we will respond as warranted. I can’t move until I know what reality is.”
It won’t be difficult to find discrepancies, as records from the LHA reveal that Williams, who began turning in time sheets for his 40-hour-per-week case-management job for the DHAP only after auditors raised red flags about the program, claimed to be two places at one time. While Williams was teaching a political science class from 6 p.m. to 8:50 p.m. on Tuesdays during the spring semester, which started in January and ended in May, he also claimed to be working on the LHA contract from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., according to his time sheets. Our review found 11 days he would have had to be both places. In the fall of 2009, he taught another political science class on Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8:50 p.m. (the same one he is now teaching) — presumably at the same time he was helping residents displaced by hurricanes.
The issue of disclosure is yet another area causing problems for Williams at UL, as all full-time UL employees are required by UL System policy to annually disclose any outside work. The form requires employees to report the name and address of the outside employer, a description of the activity and whether it presents any conflict with the employee’s duties at the university or government code of ethics.
On his July 2010-June 2011 disclosure to UL, Williams noted outside work with a time commitment of 0-20 hours per week with the Lafayette Training and Career Development Center, depending on “if company has a contract.” He identifies LTCDC as a “non-profit since 1988.” LTCDC, a 501c3 tax-exempt organization, is his company.
What he failed to report was that the LHA contract required him — not anyone else at LTCDC — to work 40 hours as a case manager for the federal program. On his disclosure form from the year before, he only noted working “evenings/weekends.” Williams’ LTCDC, which signed another contract with SMILE in January, took in $172,200 in grants for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 and showed $175,000 in expenses. It’s unclear whether he claimed the $77,000 he got annually in DHAP money (plus up to $600 a month in car allowance) as a grant and if it could legally qualify because it was a fee-for-service contract.
In 2008, the training center reported $89,000 in grants and $75,000 in expenses; in 2007 it had $68,822 in grants and $68,444 in expenses. The bulk of the expenses are classified as “program expenses,” though there is no breakdown for how much of the money goes to salaries.
Professional CPA firms retained to conduct independent audits of the LTCDC since at least 2004 faced challenges in completing their work due to the lack of information available or provided to them. In each of several independent auditors’ reports on the LTCDC, it is noted that the company’s management omitted all disclosures as well as the statement of cash flows required by generally accepted accounting principles. “If the omitted disclosures and statement cash flows were included in the financial statements, they might influence the user’s conclusion about the organization’s financial position, results of operations and cash flows,” reads the January 2010 audit report.
CPA Kenneth T. Toups, in auditing the nonprofit’s 2005 financials, said the center had received correspondence from the Internal Revenue Service for not filing Form 990 — the IRS form required to retain tax-free status. The IRS is in the process of cracking down on nonprofits and in October will begin revoking the tax-exempt status of any organization that has failed to submit the form three years in a row. Than means it cannot accept tax-deductible contributions, apply for grants, or apply for special discounts.
Williams’ LTCDC is on the IRS’ list of “Exempt Organizations at Risk of Revocation.”
But the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations warns against reading too much into its appearance on the list. “Please note that non-compliance with this rule is widespread [more than 5,000 Louisiana organizations are listed] and indicates nothing by itself,” Matthew Mullenix, vice president of public relations for LANO, writes in an email response. “Many upstanding organizations are simply unaware, which is partly why the IRS has extended the deadline several times this year.”
JUNE 19 Former Saint Steve Gleason, who is paralyzed by ALS, released a statement Tuesday in response to the Atlanta radio station's skit making fun of him and the disease, this Picayune post reports. What did he say? He said he'd accepted the apology of the DJs who did it, notes that at least the incident has got people talking about ALS, and asks anyone who is burning to take action about it to do so -- by helping him fight ALS.
JUNE 19 Blogger Ian McGibboney takes a look at the Gleason incident in this post. He makes a good argument about the difference between having free speech and being free from consequences for your speech (which none of us is). He also admits that many of us got upset before we listened to the skit -- but lets us know that the reality is far worse than we can imagine. It was the incredibly bad judgment, even more than the actual speech, that probably got those DJs fired, he opines.
JUNE 19 Washington Post blogger Aaron Blake writes about Sen. Guillory's switch to the GOP in this post. He writes what most political watchers in Louisiana know: Guillory was a Republican before he decided to run for the senate seat in a mostly-D St. Landry district, and has switched back now that he plans to run for Lt. Gov. in a mostly-R state. But how come Blake missed Guillory's appearance on a TLC pageant show? Now that is a video we'd like to see. (Again).
JUNE 19 Here's another Washington Post blog post about a Louisiana politician, and it's just plain scathing. Ezra Klein says Jindal's Politico post was "insulting" to the intelligence of voters, and adds that Jindal is personifying the "stupid" he's railed against, by being an "elite" who convinces GOP activists of "things that aren't true." Me-ow.
JUNE 19 Here's Gov. Jindal's post in Politico, in which he asks the GOP to get over losing to Obama (again) and stop "the bedwetting." (Uh, what?) He gives his Republican buddies what is probably a nerd's idea of a coach's motivational talk, which starts with a list of accomplishments that they can't seem to exploit and ending with an absurd description of liberals that sounds like a character treatment for a Fox "News" movie scripted by Gordon Liddy. Sure, he's preaching to the choir, but even the choir's not this gullible.
JUNE 19 Lamar Parmentel read Gov. Jindal's post on Politico, but thinks it was so dumb it probably was published in the wrong paper. This post by Lamar on the Daily Kingfish opines that possibly Jindal's post was destined for the Onion -- because the governor couldn't possibly be serious here. If you listen closely, you can hear the staff of the Kingfish giggling.
JUNE 19 Blogger Robert Mann posts from Turkey, a country he has visited several times in the past few years. Mann gives an interesting overview of the current political and societal climate of the country, which -- if you're living under a rock and don't know -- is experiencing protests and turmoil these days. Mann promises to post as much as he can during his trip, which should be fascinating reading.
JUNE 19 Blogger CB Forgotston says the legislature is keeping the vicious cycle going with its funding of new buildings for the community college/technical college system. Universities across the state need maintenance and improvement on existing buildings, and the solution is to build new buildings at other schools? By the time the bonds are paid off, those buildings will be falling down, too, CB says.
Frank’s Casing Crew, now doing business as Frank’s International, will make its final appearance on ABiz’s list of the Top 50 Privately Held Companies in Acadiana this year, and once again, it will likely be at the top with more than $1 billion in annual revenues. The 75-year-old company specializing in tubular fabrication and installation services to the oil and gas industry plans to go public this year.
The defeat, or rather highjacking of House Bill 420 in the final days of this year's Legislative Session, say Reps. Vincent Pierre and Terry Landry, is the result of the propaganda spread by one unidentified local media outlet and an unnamed former state Representative, but nothing to do with the original legislation's lack of checks, balances or details.
He’s a singer. A songwriter. A piano man. A family man. He’s even got his own Wikipedia entry. He’s David Egan. And he knows ancient secrets about the monolithic stones of Stonehenge that he’s not willing to share.