Former mayor Kip Holden fires back to Mayor Broome's report on BRAVE contracts

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - "It's a sad day to watch a city advance so far over 12 years and in less than one year, you're watching somebody who doesn't understand exactly what's going on in some of these programs making decisions without being equipped with the knowledge to make the right decision," said former East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden.

Holden is responding to the report put out by Mayor Sharon Weston Broome on Monday and he's not holding back.

Her report outlined what BRAVE is, how it's funded and went into the demise of BRAVE.

"Early in the administration of Mayor-President Broome the mayor's office was informed that the BRAVE grant was being suspended due to reporting and compliance deficiencies occurring in 2016 during the administration of Mayor-President Holden."

Plus, in the numerous attachments to her report that were released Tuesday, is an email to the federal government.

After being told the hold on the BRAVE money was lifted and Baton Rouge could use the $1.7 million left over by Sept. 30, the city's BRAVE administrator Dr. James Gilmore said "What we'd rather do is implement the program as it currently exists, however doing a much better job than the previous administration at grants management, program implementation, and reporting."

"She's no better than he is because neither of them are applying the grant as it's intended by the federal government but yet they're quick to place blame on myself and others as to why this program is not running full speed ahead," said Holden.

Her report also points to all of the BRAVE contracts that were signed under Holden's administration, but he said they followed proper protocol going before a committee and council and opening it up to public comments.

"We, therefore, made sure there was a lot of transparency. The work was done. It was on time and we got a lot of things accomplished. Yet they are basically taking the public input out and she's making decisions. It's not a democracy. It's a dictatorship," said Holden.

Mayor Broome's report addresses the reimbursement funds to LSU.

It says $681,000 were earmarked for LSU and so far, they had been paid $645,000 meaning they were only owed $36,000. The report said "The city and LSU came to an agreement that the request for an additional $125,000 would be contingent upon approval of the grant extension request."

But sources tell the 9News Investigators the $125,000 was a reimbursement for work already done and that LSU has yet to get paid that money.

We reached out to LSU's media relations director for official information. They sent a statement Monday:

LSU is a proud partner on the BRAVE project that was developed as an effective tool to help our community. At this time, we are working with the Mayor's office as she prepares a comprehensive report addressing the program at an upcoming Metro Council meeting.

The 9News Investigators reached out to LSU again Tuesday. They had nothing to add.

The attachments to Mayor Broome's report also show emails back and forth between Dr. Gilmore and the federal grant administrator. Dr. Gilmore told officials he would try to get contracts out quick because they were up against the clock. One of those is a transportation contract.

A June email shows a city official telling Dr. Gilmore "The contract with Runner's Courier Service will need to be submitted for introduction on the council agenda by noon tomorrow as an emergency item, in order to be approved by the council on June 28, 2017; otherwise, it cannot be approved prior to July 26, 2017."

Dr. Gilmore responded with the following:

"I promised the feds I would not hold contracts up with city council approval processes, which was one of the factors over a million plus in BRAVE was not spent previously because of delays and defers. I promised the feds in writing I would only bring contracts that needed grant review approval to get money to the people who need services in a more expeditious manner. We did not get an extension on the grant so runners carrier is only needed the months of July, August, September. Let's downsize that contract to under $17,500. Runners is ok with that. Initially when that contract was drafted back in February, it was for March to September. This will allow us to get these youth and clients to brave services for the next couple of months. And not delay the program with approval processes beyond grant review."

All the contracts per her report are either below or right at $17,500, which would then not require council approval.

"I would doubt that she didn't have any inkling of what was on the contracts of what contracts were handed out when you talk about federal money. Then that's neglect. That spells another problem she has. We're going to end up in more problems down the line if she doesn't know and understand the contracts," said Holden.

Since the 9News investigators started digging, Mayor Broome has suspended all of those contracts but for Holden, it raises the question why suspend the contracts if her report says they followed all procedures.

"What she's basically doing is playing a neutral role so she won't be subject to more criticism from people who are not getting what they filed an application for and there are no reasons set forth why she should be holding the money," said Holden.

The 9News Investigators reached out to Mayor Broome's office requesting an interview with Mayor Broome Tuesday. We were told she was not available.

In the meantime, the Legislative Auditor has launched an official investigation into the mayor's office, but Holden is calling for more.

"I think that halo is crumbling. When these auditors take a look at it, I just hope they call in one other group. I hope they call in the federal government & let them take a look at Mrs. Broome's operations because I think some of that does not pass the smell test," said Holden.

The federal government, specifically the grant coordinating office, has not yet responded to our requests.

An item is on Wednesday's Metro council agenda to get an update from Mayor Broome on the $125,000 for LSU, the item that was deleted back in February.

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