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Festering fraud problem may harm Glover candidacy

That ex-Caddo School Board member Lola May admitted to theft and the way it was handled by Caddo District Attorney Charles Scott leaves uncomfortable questions for both Scott and Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover -- which may become an uncomfortable campaign issue for Glover now and perhaps Scott later.

After several months investigation initiated by Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator, May worked out a plea agreement with Scott to a single charge that resulted in no jail time and a minimal fine, even as Prator’s information suggests May embezzled far more than the amount she pled to. The investigation of her began as a part of a wider scandal engulfing Shreveport’s Department of Community Development over the use of federal funds for repairing houses of low-income individuals, the dominant source of funding for the group May led, the Queensborough Neighborhood Association.

Scott seemed satisfied over his handling of the case, saying it was a warning shot to these officials and that part of the agreement, her resigning her school board seat (but not being forced off the QNA board), was appropriate punishment. This is all true if Scott believes blowing a peashooter as the warning shot will send any message other than if you worm your way into a position of political power and know the right politically powerful individuals, breaking the law at taxpayers’ expense draws next to no penalty. The book needed to be thrown at her if there is any hope of discouraging this abuse of public trust.

However, as negligent as the elected official Scott’s disposition of the case was, it pales in comparison to the neglect by Glover and his administration that allowed this compromising situation to develop. Well before he was elected mayor the department under the bumbling direction of Bonnie Moore who continues to lead it, on more than one occasion its practices regarding records and distribution of monies was publicly questioned. Then last year city inspectors were discovered corruptly approving of substandard or work never performed by contractors – one of those recipients being a friend of May’s who was the subject of the fraudulent use of QNA money by her – only after Glover showed no sense of urgency in investigating the matter despite warning signs that the city exercised inadequate supervision over the disbursement of the federal housing funds.

This blindness by Glover and Moore was on full display regarding the QNA. In a review of its 2005, 2006, and 2007 Form 990 required by many nonprofits to be filed with the Internal Revenue Service (the 2008 form which given the fiscal year of the group should have become public by Sept. 15, 2009 does not appear yet to be) , the vast bulk of its revenues – respectively by year $450,207, $114,380, and $423,411 – came from government programs dealing with housing rehabilitation – respectively $297,206, $44,785, and $252,243. In short, QNA had become a virtual arm of city government for implementing this policy, and therefore deserved much more scrutiny by it.

And had the city bothered to do this due diligence, the warning flags were there. In that period despite claiming working 50 hours a week (on top of her school board position), May drew less than $20,000 a year on average and treasurer Lloyd Davis, claiming 20 hours a week, received nothing. When these involve an organization getting close to half a million dollars a year, seeing figures such as these makes one wonder whether enough control was being exercised by a treasurer devoting so much time for nothing and whether such a poorly paid director for the hours spent might not be finding compensation in other ways.

Also, why the QNA? Other neighborhood associations such as Broadmoor and Captain Shreve draw few revenues other than membership dues – of which QNA had none – and engage mostly in informational efforts and small projects. Should not another third-party with demonstrated expertise in the area have been chosen to administer the program given its size and scope – especially when, as the 2006 Form 990 shows, the organization had trouble getting in its paperwork correctly on time.

That a treasurer claims to work 20 hours weekly on the books should have meant May’s corrupt activities should have been spotted long ago. The city needs to sever its relationship with the group but this closing the barn door after the horse gets out absolves no culpability of the Glover Administration which should have known better than to entrust city dollars to the group. Failure now to disassociate totally from it combined with Glover’s previous blind eye to its questionable capabilities would call into severe doubt whether in the Glover Administration good stewardship really is more important than politics.

As the campaign season gets into full swing, Glover has pretended the issue doesn't exist. His opponents, the media, and an attentive public would do this fall's voters a favor if they remind him that it does.


Anonymous said...

I would think that if there are any public forums or televised debates the candidates for mayor will be asked, "What do you plan to do to change things in the Department of Community Development?" Since Community Development is Shreveport's "black" department (it has very few white employees)I would not expect Glover or Burrell to make any substantive changes. They will both recycle the same old crooks and incompetents to run the department which will at least keep Sheriff Prator and federal investigators busy for some time to come.

Anonymous said...

Caddo is lucky to have a Sheriff like Prator who does not let politics stand in his way of enforcing the law. If Bossier could only be so lucky it would be great.