All we can say is it’s about time. Thanks to City-Parish Councilman William Theriot, we now know what a mess the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority has been for God knows how long. The Legislative Auditor slammed the public trust’s board and its longtime attorney in an advisory services report (it wasn’t even a full-blown audit), noting that every year since 2008 two different independent audit firms reported to the entity that it had significant deficiencies and material weaknesses in its accounting and financial statements. The deficiencies were still present when the Legislative Auditor came calling. Shockingly, the LPTFA does not even prepare or adopt an annual budget, despite that it is required to do so by state law, and — worst of all — LPTFA’s lack of an ethics code and training for its board members was likely a factor in ethics charges against its former chairman, Greg Gachassin. Those charges, filed by the Board of Ethics last year, prompted Theriot and community activists like Carol Ross to call for an inquiry into its operations. These are only a few of the problems cited in the report. Let’s hope the council demands some answers from LPTFA’s board and its attorney, Richard Becker.
It was with shock and dismay that Lafayette learned longtime Festival International de Louisiane Executive Director Dana Baker abruptly resigned her position and parted ways with the board. To outside observers festival operations were running like the German rail system, with our beloved April shindig getting bigger and better — almost to the point of outgrowing downtown Lafayette — each year during her tenure. What was inexplicable in the divorce was how tight-lipped both sides were in revealing the reason for the departure, leading to no small amount of speculation and some unfortunate rumors that painted a picture of parochialism and small-town politics run amok. Baker’s abrupt departure also precluded implementing a smooth succession plan. When a respected executive at a beloved entity resigns suddenly and without reason, something’s up, and in this case silence isn’t golden — it’s ugly.
What used to be known as the “Sore Four” on the Lafayette Parish School Board has grown into a simple(-minded) majority with the spoiling of board member Tehmi Chassion, and they’re making Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives look downright cooperative. Their goal, evidently, is to oppose Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper at every turn, students and schools be damned, and they’ve taken throwing the baby out with the bath water to new lows. Most recently the board voted 5-4 to yank half the funding from an innovative aspect of Cooper’s Turnaround Plan that would provide teen moms in the school district with special educational services and training along with childcare. The program planned for Northside High is also designed to get those teen moms’ children academically prepared for kindergarten, and upon graduation, the mothers would receive certification qualifying them to work in child care. Chassion, who represents Northside High, joined the obstructionist faction on the board in voting to pull the funding.