I-Team: Questionable Spending - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

I-Team: Questionable Spending

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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

The little over $70,000 a year given to members of the East Baton Rouge Metro Council is money that is supposed to be spent with your best interest in mind. The I-Team continues its investigation into how they spend your money.

Metro Council members personally spend hundreds of thousands of your dollars each year on all sorts of things. The majority of the 12 members spent some of your money on what you might expect; stuff like office supplies and meetings. However, there are also the expensive trips and things like a $200 gift for singer R. Kelly.

Critics said when council members use their budgets to make donations or for gifts, they are basically buying votes down the road. On his way out the door, outgoing Councilman Smokie Bourgeois used your money to make a $7,000 donation to the Camelot College Scholarship Fund. One of the directors listed at the school worked as a consultant for Bourgeois during his campaign.

Councilman John Delgado beat Bourgeois and said he's troubled by picking and spending the public's tax money just on certain groups or people.

"Whenever we are specifying, this particular group gets a $7,000 expenditure of public funds, we need to be real careful as to how that's done," Delgado said. "As you're going out the door, giving the money, yeah, that could raise some questions for sure."

Former Councilman Bones Addison at first gave $25,000 of your money away to a summer program for students, and then added in another $10,000.

And while using council budgets for donations are one thing, a lot of your money is going toward travel. One of the more well traveled council members is C. Denise Marcelle, who represents District 7. You paid to send her on several trips to Washington, DC, but also on a trip to Ceasars' Palace in Las Vegas, Miami, FL, and St. Martin island.

The purpose of all of the trips was to attend conferences; mainly what's called "The National Bar Association Conference." It's an association of African American lawyers and judges. Marcelle is not an attorney, but works privately as a legal assistant. She was questioned if her attending the bar association conferences really benefit the city or perhaps help out her own personal career.

"I do write the law on a local level, but I'm interested in all of the things about the law," said Marcelle. "So, I love to go to those types of conventions."

On two different expense reports obtained by the I-Team, Councilwoman Marcelle tried to get reimbursed for rentals cars used on her trips. They were denied because the councilwoman admitted she wanted to use them for "sightseeing tours." This includes the $1,400 conference trip to St. Martin and a personal sightseeing trip with the president of St. Martin.

"I did visit the president of St. Martin's home. We rode around the city. She showed me things that were undeveloped areas and how she was planning on developing it and that's what that was about. So, I wasn't specific in saying I was at so and so's, but I did go to her house and I'm sure that you could find that out as well," Marcelle explained.

"Who was the president of St. Martin at the time?" Greg asked.

"I cannot remember her name, but she was the first woman president of St. Martin," Marcelle responded.

The majority of the budgets the I-Team looked through were for what many have called legitimate expenses. We'll let you be the judge on this last one. Councilwoman Marcelle spent $256 of your money for the key to the city for rap and R&B singer R. Kelly. Marcelle made the presentation at R. Kelly's Valentine's Day concert in Baton Rouge.

"That's the best use of tax payer's money to go there and recognize R. Kelly at his Valentine's Day concert?" Greg asked.

"Again, the reason I chose to do that is because he's a great artist," Marcelle answered.

"Do you see how people see that you're personally invested in it, so you spend tax payers' money to get it done?" Greg followed up.

"Ah, no I don't see that because it's an allowable expense of who you want to recognize. And, I don't think anybody should handle me any differently or any other councilmember for whatever they choose to do," she said.

"You don't see where an R. Kelly concert presentation would kind of throw people off?" Greg asked.

"No... I don't. Again, I see it as economic development," Marcelle responded.

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