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.”
MAY 17 Here's a column from James Gill, this time in the Advocate. Gill, who has jumped ship from the Picayune, writes about the absurdity of dueling polls in this post. The numbers are so wildly different, it is obvious that both sides are "cooking the books," he writes. In particular, he looks at Sen. Mary Landrieu, and how her recent actions in DC have been received by those polled. Gill's acerbic, amusing prose is a welcome addition to a paper so conservative as to be occasionally lacking in personality.
MAY 17 Blogger Tom Aswell continues delivering bombshells about the state education department and Gov. Jindal's education "reform" efforts. In this post, he reports that students in the Shreveport area have been signed up for a charter school without their knowledge or consent. Most interesting to Aswell is how this Texas-based charter (with ties to GOP types) got the personal student information it has, if the students didn't give it.
MAY 17 This post by JR Ball in the Baton Rouge Business Report is an interesting tongue-in-cheek look at recent Baton Rouge economic development efforts. Among the items he examines is the idea that gaining a Costco makes BR a "world-class city." (Really? All you need is a different brand of Sam's? MK!) This effort, and other recent ones, are all built on the taxpayer's back, with tax zones, tax incentives and tax rebates, Ball writes.
MAY 17 Blogger CB Forgotston is critical of the legislature's reliance on a revenue-estimating committee's decision to include projected tax amnesty income in this year's forecast. That's a problem, CB posts, because the deadline for these people to pay their taxes is June 30, 2014. So when do you think these people who haven't paid taxes in years are going to pay their taxes? Surely not before June 30, and that means the money won't be there for this year's budget, he argues.
MAY 17 Here's an interesting blog out of California by a Hollywood writer, attorney and academic named Brian Alan Lane. He blogs about higher ed, and was a whistle-blower in a scandal over false credentials. In this post, he takes aim at LSU's new top dog, King Alexander. It's convoluted and a little confusing, but it sure makes Alexander a lot more interesting than he was yesterday.
MAY 17 Blogger Robert Mann writes about the LSU Board's refusal to allow Dr. Fred Cerise to testify before the legislature about Gov. Jindal's plan to close down all the state's charity hospitals and dump the poor on the private system. It's hard to imagine anyone more qualified than Cerise to testify about that, so why would anyone try to prevent him doing so? Mann thinks it is because the powers that be aren't interested in hearing any truth about the plan.
MAY 17 This post on the Louisiana Sinkhole Bugle, a blog that notes developments in the Bayou Corne and Jefferson Island salt domes, talks about a proposed expansion of the salt dome storage under Lake Peigneur in Iberia Parish. Residents are working against it for several reasons, including two biggies: the sinkhole disaster in Bayou Corne and the continuing, unexplained bubbling on the surface of the Lake.
MAY 17 NOLA police arrested more people Thursday accused of either being involved in the Mother's Day shooting or hiding the suspect afterward, this Gambit story reports. The NOLA police chief said he suspects the whole thing was gang-related and throws out a challenge to the gangs: he's got informants now, he says, and he knows a lot more than the gangs want him to know. The people who live in the neighborhoods terrorized by gangs are ready to talk, he says.
Is it a crime for citizens to photograph, video, or take notes of a police officer in the line of duty, or a right protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Locally, such activity, as witnessed recently, will at the very least result in a night spent behind bars.
David Calhoun and Elizabeth “EB” Brooks are the first two employees of Lafayette Central Park Inc., the nonprofit charged with turning Lafayette Consolidated Government’s 100-acre Johnston Street Horse Farm property into a passive public park. Calhoun was named executive director, and Brooks is director of planning and design.
Episcopal School of Acadiana’s Dr. Joshua Caffery, chair of the school’s English Department, is headed to Washington, D.C., and the Library of Congress as the latest winner of the Alan Lomax Fellowship in Folklife Studies.