Mayor Broome releases internal review of BRAVE contracts, prompt - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Mayor Broome releases internal review of BRAVE contracts, prompted by 9News Investigation

Mayor Sharon Weston Broome (Source: WAFB) Mayor Sharon Weston Broome (Source: WAFB)
BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome released a nine-page report Monday outlining her office’s internal review of contracts issued using BRAVE funding and whether those federal dollars were used properly.

The mayor’s internal probe followed a series of reports by 9News Lead Investigative Reporter, Kiran Chawla.

Below is the mayor's statement regarding her report:

"The report released today by my office details developments pertaining to the BRAVE program since its inception. The report provides a comprehensive overview of the program and documents the problems incurred in 2016 that led to the program being sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. In addition, this report presents the efforts of this administration to correct those problems. The objectives of BRAVE were and will remain important. My administration will continue to address those issues that have a significant impact on the Baton Rouge community. We will also continue to be committed to transparency, and continue to move forward and work towards creating a better future for the citizens of Baton Rouge."

Broome was very direct Monday night when addressing the review just hours after her office released the report.

"I stand by the report that we put out and at this present time all contracts that I cited are still suspended and they are under review," said Broome.

A number of those contracts have been under the microscope in recent weeks, even prompting the state's legislative auditor to launch an investigation into the mayor's office after 9News Investigative Reporter Kiran Chawla filed a report where councilman Buddy Amoroso accused the mayor of awarding contracts for what he believed were political favors.

"And it appears... I'll be asking the mayor this at our next council meeting that that money was used here and it was kind of money that went out on the street to you know my opinion, political favors," Amoroso said at the time.

The mayor Monday denied her involvement in those awards, saying politics had nothing to do with it.

"I have been very transparent in this whole process first of all. As I've stated on a number of occasions, I was not involved in the execution of those contracts," Broome said.

The report lists all contracts offered through the BRAVE grant since it started in 2012. A closer look reveals problems with the award which started in 2016 during then-mayor Kip Holden’s administration. In fact, according to the report, Mayor Broome's office was notified in February that the BRAVE funds were frozen by the Department of Justice due to an overdue progress report and two other reports from 2016 that were missing information.

In March the, mayor's office staff, including Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Dr. James Gilmore, were part of a discussion with the DOJ requesting more time to spend the remaining $1.7 million left for the grant.

The report shows her office told officials they would award contracts under the $17,500 threshold to speed up the process and not have to go through city council meetings. Instead, the contracts went through the finance department.

According to the report, the mayor’s staff was told an extension would likely not happen due to, among other things, poor programmatic performance, a lack of enough youth and adults being served through the grant and two extension requests that had already been approved without the funding being spent.

Mayor Broome's office did not get access to the funds until after the necessary reports were correctly submitted to the DOJ in May, the report shows, giving them roughly four months to comply with the grant and spend the remaining money before the September 30, 2017 deadline.

Mayor Broome released a statement on July 31 that she would have a status update for the media no later than Aug. 7.

“I think public interest is extremely important, and I support public engagement and transparency. I or the chief administrative officer will continue to do what I stated last week, which is to review every contract that comes through the Office of the Mayor-President to ensure quality, cost-effective services for the people of East Baton Rouge Parish. In addition, I have directed my administration to prepare a comprehensive report related to BRAVE contracts, projects and funding. We will provide a status report to the media no later than Monday, August 7.”

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked the mayor why it was so important to announce such an aggressive timeline for the response and get that information before the public as soon as possible.

"It was very important for me to get this information before the public because there were a lot of questions and there's no time that I want the public to think our administration is doing anything but being transparent and looking out for this entire city and parish," said Broome.

While mayor Broom did not directly address the previous administration, she says the report offers vital information that she believes may offer insight for those who have questioned her staff's handling of the grant funds.

"I believe this report will certainly answer questions that people may have and will provide very insightful information on the BRAVE program from its inception until now," Broome added.

With the report just out Monday, she invites everyone with questions to read through the documents for themselves before she comments further.

"I am very committed to everyone having access to this report, looking at it and then making comments after that," Broome said.

The report cites numerous attachments to support the findings which the mayor’s staff say will be made available Tuesday morning.

For the full report, click here.

RELATED STORIES

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera announced his office has officially launched an investigation into Broome’s office that are expected to begin this week.

Amoroso has successfully put an item on Wednesday’s council meeting agenda requesting an update from the mayor on a Feb. 2017 BRAVE item that was deleted from the agenda per her request. 

That item was a reimbursement to LSU’s Office of Social Services and Research for $125,000. Sources tell the 9News Investigators that $125,000 was for work that started in Oct. 2016, including data analysis for BRAVE that was then passed on to officials to help them target high crime areas in zip codes 70802 and 70805. Sources also said LSU has yet to get paid that $125,000.

The report released by the mayor Monday said there was an agreement between the mayor’s office and LSU which said the additional payment of the $125,000 would be contingent upon the successful extension of the BRAVE grant.

Copyright 2017 WAFB. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly