Saturday, February 13, 2010

Did the Bossier Delegation to Washington put the 'gras' in Mardi Gras?

The Times had an interesting article Thursday about local politicians and their taxpayer-paid visits to Mardi Gras festivities in the nation’s capital. Times reporters Alison Bath and Adam Causey uncovered some things that, while not surprising, are disturbing.
Mayor Cedric Glover of Shreveport took a modest, conservative approach to the event. Glover was already in Washington for the Mayor’s Conference with the Assistant CAO. Total Mardi Gras expenses for the City of Shreveport: $4,606.40.
The Caddo Parish Commission sent the Parish Administrator and 3 Commissioners, for a cost of $14,373.
The Council of Governments sent 1 person for a cost of $4,173.78.
The Bossier Parish Police Jury paid for 9 people to attend the events. They were:
Bill Altimus, administrator
Rick Avery, district 6
Wanda Bennett, district 3 and jury president
Glenn Benton, district 2
Barry Butler, district 5
Paul Plummer, district 12
Joe E. Ford, Jr., parish engineer
Patrick R. Jackson, parish attorney
Craig Spohn, Cyber Innovation Center executive director
The cost to taxpayers: $22,809.56 and counting. According to the article “That total doesn't include the tab for a private dinner party for 75 guests (shared by Bossier & Caddo), mostly from Louisiana, at an Italian chain restaurant. Also missing are meals, cab fare and other expenses incurred by the nine officials the Bossier Parish Police Jury sent to the annual gala in the nation's capital.”
It took repreated Public Records request from The Times to get what information they were able to get from Bossier Parish Administrator Bill Altimus.
Why?
Wanda Bennett, Police Jury President said "I understand that some people want to believe that all government and the elected officials are crooks, but this simply is not true.”
As far as I’m aware, no one has accused Mrs. Bennett or other police jurors of being crooks. That is simply a disingenuous answer to unasked questions. The Police Jury is not above public scrutiny, and questioning their expenditures is not to accuse them of being crooks.
Mrs. Bennett went on to say that “"The celebration of Mardi Gras is a special celebration in Washington that was established many years ago to share the culture and food of our state with everyone and to give them an opportunity they may otherwise never have. A lot of hard work is done during this time along with the celebration."
Assuming that some good contacts were made, was it really necessary to send a delegation of 9 people?
Of course, the amount spent is a drop in the bucket when you look at the total amount that the people of Bossier Parish furnish the Police Jury. The point is that, during bad economic times, does it send the right message to the people of Bossier?
Bossier Parish already has a handsomely paid lobbyist in Washington. In 2009 the Police Jury paid the New Orleans firm of Phelps Dunbar LLP $120,000 to represent the Parish in Washington.
The Caddo Commission paid the same firm $40,000 to represent them last year. The City of Shreveport no longer has a paid lobbyist.
What this means in essence is that the Police Jury is reaching into the pockets of Bossier Parish taxpayers to the tune of $10,000 per month to pay someone to encourage the national government to reach into the pockets of taxpayers from the entire country and send that money to Bossier Parish. I know this is how the system currently works, but it is wrong on so many levels that I won’t begin to get into it here.
Schmoozing with Louisiana congressmen John Fleming and Rodney Alexander as well as with U.S. senators David Vitter and Mary Landrieu proved invaluable, said Caddo Commissioner Matthew Linn.
"The contact time in their office and at the dinner table is priceless," Linn said. "Out of sight out of mind comes into play, and these yearly meetings along with administrative follow ups keep Caddo and Bossier on the Louisiana state map."

There is a simple answer to this. Congressman Fleming and Senator Vitter are both running for re-election this year, and if the representatives of our local governments are unable to keep a dialogue going with them locally, then they should outline their grievances so that the people can vote in new representation in Washington.
I will note in Dr. Fleming’s defense that I don’t for a minute believe that he is ignoring Bossier and Caddo Parishes and that our local pols have to go to Washington to ‘schmooze’ with him in order to get his attention, nor do they have to go to Washington to converse with Senators Vitter and Landrieu.
As for Rodney Alexander, I’m sure that he directs any pork he can control to his own district in Northeast Louisiana.
What was the purpose of that dinner for 75 people, mostly Louisianans, held at an Italian Restaurant by the Bossier & Caddo delegations? Was it really necessary? What local government objectives were accomplished by feeding people from Louisiana who were all in Washington for a party?
What was the purpose of having the Parish Engineer and the Parish Attorney in Washington? What were they lobbying for on the trip? I’m not saying that they did not have a purpose, I just believe that it should be revealed to the people who paid for the trip.
Perhaps each of the individuals who attended can present an outline of who they met with and how their meetings benefited the people of Bossier.
They owe the people that accounting.
We look forward to The Times follow up on this.

49 comments:

  1. The restaurant tab wasn't included because is was in excess of $10,000 Just thought you would like to know.

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  2. jewel12 wrote:
    What I would like to know is how can Mayor Glover and Assistant Rick Seaton get hotel rates for $344.65 a night and it costs the Bossier Police Jury Altimus, Attorney Jackson , Butler and Benton $1392.32 for 2 nights, Wanda Benett almost $900 for one night and BPJ member Avery, Plummer and engineer Ford $1767.99 for 2 nights. I bet none of them would pay their own money to go to that event at those prices. Kudos to Rep. Jane Smith for not spending taxpayer money to go and Rep. Wayne Waddel is the best of the best for not going and being a good example by not wasting taxpayers money when times are hard. Maybe the Bossier Parish crowd need to take lessons from Mayor Glover and find rooms much cheaper. Maybe we need to vote out all the Bossier crowd for wasting taxpayer money or for taking advantage of the taxpayers because they can. Those Bossier Police Jury folks sure are bad examples! Vote them all out or fire them for they have no shame!
    2/11/2010 6:34:23 PM

    Post from the Shreveport Times

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  3. shibboleth wrote:
    Mr. Bill Altimus, Administrator of Bossier Parish Police Jury should take a step back and reflect on his "liberal spending habits". Perhaps it is time for a new administrator who could be more objective and could utilize restraint. Please, nine people to the Washington Mardi Gras? This is indicative of how he thinks. If Bossier Parish has an abundance of dollars to spend, perhaps they need to send some back to the taxpayers. Mr. Altimus collects one salary for his police juror status and another salary as parish administrator. He hired an assistant a couple of years ago because he needed help due to his involvement in Cyber Innovation Center. Perhaps he is wearing too many hats. He has initiated and supported automatic and guaranteed raises for parish employees. For year 2009, their COLA was 5.8% plus an annual increase of 2.5%. Do government employees deserve more security than taxpayers who work in the private sector? This is just an example of abuse of taxpayer dollars.
    2/11/2010 3:16:31 PM
    Shreveport Times Post

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  4. Jim, I have to agree that John Fleming, and Vitter ALREADY have the ear of NW LA.

    And, I'll even give Mary some props when it comes to our "geographically specific" concerns...not in the big picture, but she's okay on energy, Barksdale, etc.

    It's just a danged shame the way things "work," as you noted.

    I'd like to hear from the Globetrotters myself about what actually was accomplished. That's a lot of coins spent to attend a party that may have not been necessary, for sure.

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  5. What I want to know is how did they showcase "the culture and food of Louisiana", as Mrs. Bennett says, by hosting 75 diners at an "Italian chain restaurant"? I know that there are Olive Gardens all over the state, but that is now what I think of as "the culture and food of Louisiana.

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  6. Great point, Realist.
    I'm also interested in the 'hard work' they did up there. If a private company spent that kind of money to send people to an event, you can bet they would account for everything spent and give their superiors an accounting of their time and efforts.
    In this case, the people of Bossier are the 'superiors' and the elected officials owe that accounting.

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  7. This has been going on for years in every public body at taxpayers' expense. It doesnt make it right, however. The good news is due to the internet blogs and a few breaking news stories the culprits are more readily caught and brought to public attention. Keep up the good work bloggers.

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  8. You are just trying to stir up trouble. A lot of good was accomplished at this event. Maybe it is time to stop criticizing our leaders and get behind them.

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  9. I sure wouldn't get in front of them

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  10. Would someone be so kind as to itemize the good that came from this event. I will reserve my comments until i hear the other side. Thanks...I am waiting.

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  11. Anon wrote: "You are just trying to stir up trouble. A lot of good was accomplished at this event. Maybe it is time to stop criticizing our leaders and get behind them."

    I reckon he/she showed you, you ol' troublemaker! Nyuk...

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  12. I know, Andy. 'Our leaders', and I thought they were 'public servants'. Shouldn't buy into that campaign rhetoric.
    If that commenter wants to identify which member of the delegation they are and email me an answer I'll be glad to give them a guest blog to do it!

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  13. Their spending is borderline crimminal. Its ovbiously collusion between the members to use public funds for personal use.

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  14. Anonymous at 10:01, I am going to pass on getting behind self-annointed "leaders" after they have been to a $10,000 dinner at an Olive Garden.

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  15. Heh! Yeah Realist...right on. Yep, Jim, I had the very same thought when I read Anon's advice to the "trouble maker."

    I was wondering which PJ it was. And personally, I would like to read a well thought-out blog post in defense of it. I'm the open-minded sort. If someone can instruct, or inform me on an issue, I'm always open to it.

    You wanna start taking bets on the likelihood of it? Just sayin'...

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  16. Jim, don't you just love it? Chinese spam! You know you've hit the big-time when they find you!

    快樂與人生,是最好的伴侶

    I think I told you that my oldest son is a Chinese linguist. But I'm pretty sure it wasn't him. That reminds me, I've got to drop him a link to your blog. He's a Bossier boy (stationed in Omaha), and would enjoy it, I'm sure.

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  17. Just as I thought, not one item in defense of this stealing from the taxpayers. Am sure other pjs are shaking their heads and doing a bunch of i told u sos...

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  18. myrtlejean wrote:

    Under Louisiana Law, money spent in this manner has to be backed up with tangible documentation that it resulted in action that is for the betterment of the municipality.

    Those that believe that the trip was for "legitimate purposes", hold your breath until the documents are published in the paper. My guess is you will turn as blue as a Smurf and pass out before it happens.

    They went to party. If you are conducting legitimate business, you don't need a "hospitality suite". You need to meet with the other parties in their office during office hours. This would take only a couple of hours rather than 3 days. They can color it any color they want, it is still a waste of money that should have been used in improving the quality of life of the taxpayers that pay their salaries.

    2/13/2010 11:27:21 AM Post from Shrevport Times

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  19. Andy, 快樂與人生,是最好的伴侶 you too!

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  20. These leaders in Washington see our local leaders up their wasting our money and getting drunk and they now that they can take advantage of them.

    This is nothing more that partying on our dime. What a waste. What we get from partying with the federal purse sting holders:

    Benton Road over pass paid for with city funds. This is a state highway--no other city pays for construction of state highway.

    Schools built with local tax dollars-- roofs leaking--mold growing some even built in flood zone.

    Bossier city can't put in new water and sewer system-- no money to hire fire and police.

    Cyber Command/Strike--aka "we get to store nukes that no other state wants"-- costs us 50 million in local money to build a buiilding that global strike won't need for years and this building did not help us get the contract and ten mardi gras in a row didn't give us what San Antionio has "class and a first class education system" --we built this before contract awarded. Wonder who got contract to build it?

    1-49 still not finished--- Arkansas is even ahead of us on this one. It is 2010, and we are still driving up 1, 3 and 71 to get to 30.

    School Board--- pays millions for work not done on AC units. We get billed. No one gets fired for this. No audit, no reports, no money. Felons in schools next to our kids!! No one fired for this folks.

    Police Jury-- 120,000 lobbyist? isn't that their job? Basically we elected them to run parish, and they sub out main job trait-- getting federal dollars.

    We will continue to have these problems. This group of leaders needs to be retired.

    Not one of them has asked for a Federal Exemption for Haynesville Shale Royalties. Do you think any of them asked for a 5 year moratorium on taxes for Hanyesville Shale royalty income while they were strutting and two stepping in DC? Think this would help the ecomony? yeah but it wold not help cousin joe get ot build the Cyber command II.


    No new ideas, wasting money, can't balance budgets, subing our job duties, letting felons walk in schools with our kids--you start to wonder whether we even need local governments.

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  21. Myrtlejean, I can't locate the statute you are refering to. Can you state the Revised Statute that you believe says that?

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  22. Not sure what the law indicates relevant to travel as it pertains to public servants in this state but I can tell you that all publicly traded companys, military or state office's requires that the employee stays within the General Services Administrations set per diem. It is absolutely unacceptable for local representatives to be paying three or four times the GSA rates. The allowed lodging rates in DC not including tax is $207 a night. This is complete and total disregard for the publics best interest!!!!!

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  23. would the reaction be the same if these folks have gone to DC when it was not celebrating mardis gras?? Certainly, there would not be anything wrong with that.

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  24. I think that kind of abuse would raise questions at any time.

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  25. Public officials love to eat out.
    Case in point, "Foodgate", here in Alexandria. With a good hamburger costing up to 30 or 40 dollars, they take advantage of it at every event they attend... :)

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  26. jim, this is about the only pubic forum where we cut through the BS and get the real deal-local mainstream media is even currupted (influenced) by advertising, until this stuff gets out in the open people will remain clueless--thanks for all the hard work

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  27. I would just like to point out that the employees of the courthouse- judges office, clerks office, DA's office- did not get a cost of living raise this year.

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  28. Just be happy you still got a job anon at 2:30.

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  29. myrtlejean wrote:

    Can anyone out there explain to me why the air fare for the Cyber Innovation Center exec. director was paid for by the tax payers?

    One would think that his employer would have sent him if they thought it would be beneficial.
    Shreveport Times Post 2/17/10

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  30. Heh! I'm surprised the Chinese are so interested in the Bossier Parish Police Jury.

    Maybe they were invited to the Olive Garden that night.

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  31. Andy, ain't it great to see a blog go international?

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  32. I'm proud for you, Jim. I really am. I was once told that you know you've hit the big-time when the chinks (oooops, I can't say "chinks") find you.

    Nyuk...

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  33. At least one person on the police jury is not happy about the newspaper and your blog printing all of this.

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  34. More than one. these people don't like to be called out.

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  35. bentonmom30 wrote:

    This article just makes me sick!!!! I know for a fact that the BOSSIER PARISH POLICE JURY did not give thier employees any raises this year because there WAS NOT ENOUGH MONEY!!!! REALLY BOSSIER PARISH POLICE JURY BUT THERE IS ENOUGH MONEY TO SEND 9 PEOPLE TO WASHINGTON DC AND SPEND WELL OVER $20,000. HOW DARE YOU TREAT YOUR EMPLOYEES THAT WAY. HOW DARE YOU. WHAT GOES AROUND WILL COME AROUND SO THINK ABOUT THAT THE NEXT TIME YOU WANT TO WASTE THE TAXPAYERS MONEY!!!! SOUNDS LIKE BOSSIER PARISH NEEDS A TEA PARTY AT THE BOSSIER PARISH COURTHOUSE. I WOULD BE THERE WITH BELLS ON WITH THE BIGGEST BAG OF TEA!!!!!!

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  36. ProudMe wrote:

    This makes me mad! WHY did the taxpayers pay for these people to go on vacation? I wish someone else would pay for mine, I really, really would like to visit Las vegas! The defense they used for going "it was necessary to keep north Louisiana front of mind in Washington"....If u fall for that load of bull, you are nuts! They are just like alot of the other politicians, they think we, the taxpayers, owe them! They are abusing the system and I don't care what BS excuse they use for going. And not ALL politicians are "crooks" but these seem like it to me. They should have used their own dang money to go. They are leeches! You can bet not a one of them did a thing for Louisiana while they were there. They partied for 3 days on our money.

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  37. Hey Jim, is it time for the dump button, yet? Nyuk!

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  38. Just caught that Andy, it's dumped! I hate friggin' spam comments!

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