Already buffeted by a false savings claim he made on an insider city contracting deal and an apparently illegal attempt to change the city’s panel overseeing aviation, Perkins now finds himself exposed on a deal to charge the city for transition team expenses. Meanwhile, a nonprofit that doesn’t have to disclose donors formed by his campaign manager seemingly reluctantly pays bills.
Perkins initially wanted the city to cough up around $47,000 for a string of transition-team related expenses utilizing the city’s convention center. While Shreveport did reimburse the nonprofit, called Future of Shreveport, about $7,000 for expenses related to Perkins’ inauguration ceremony, the City Council has balked on providing the remainder.
This brought a complaint from Perkins that the most recent mayors, his predecessor Ollie Tyler and state Rep. Cedric Glover, had received city money allegedly for transition expenses, claiming “they spent $60,000 on her transition, and the administration before that spent half a million on strategic planning. In the spirit of transparency and fiscal responsibility, we are using only $40,000.”
In asserting this, Perkins used creative license to say the least. Tyler’s administration did spend that amount on strategic planning, but that was separate from her transition activities which volunteers handled. Glover didn’t spend anything on strategic planning, with the amount Perkins quoted related to the latest (2030) master plan conducted with the Parish.
The argument dragged out as the nonprofit apparently had trouble paying its bills. Months later, it still owes almost $13,000 on its notice for the ball after the inauguration and began paying on it only recently after Perkins had begun cajoling the Council to raid the Riverfront Development Fund for his transition. What throwing a soiree has to do with economic development makes the Council understandably skeptical about the request.
The timeline also begs the question of why the entity, technically independent of the mayor, waited almost four months to start settling its tab. (Interestingly, it lists an address the same as BRF, the nonprofit now largely existing off local dedicated taxpayer dollars but which for a few years ran –ineptly it seems – University Hospital with far more state taxpayer dollars behind it.) Was it waiting on Perkins to get the council to groove it money and, if so, why? Because perhaps the Perkins team underestimated the money it could raise from private citizens, companies, and groups?
In his campaign, Perkins made much of moving beyond insider politics of the past. Yet his explanations about this issue, which ring hollow, echo the worst of opaqueness. And don’t forget cronyism – questions linger about the nonprofit and whether it serves as a conduit to curry favor with Perkins on policy and contracting. Keep in mind that, despite a recent ordinance dealing with insurance, that the city’s executive branch has the final say over much contracting that, barring a change of heart of a Council minority on the issue of Council input to any deals over $500,000, that will remain unchecked.
By law, governors must reveal data about transition team donors. Perkins could help to quell growing concern over transparency by asking Future of Shreveport to make this kind of information available to the public.