Treasurer questions financial reporting of 19 NGOs

State Treasurer John Kennedy said Wednesday that 19 community organizations have three weeks to detail how they spent taxpayer dollars.

The groups in Kennedy’s crosshairs include groups in New Orleans and Lafayette with ties to current and former legislators.

Kennedy threatened last month to forward files on 34 community groups to a new state debt collection unit unless they explained how $4.5 million in taxpayer money was spent.

The groups — called nongovernmental organizations — are supposed to file paperwork after receiving money from the state.

“We’ve repeatedly reached out to these groups and warned them about their obligations under the law,” Kennedy said in a prepared statement.

Kennedy said five groups provided paperwork and 12 started working with his staff after he made his threat. He said final demand letters will go to organizations that did not make “official or direct contact.”

The groups at odds with the treasurer include the Algiers Enterprise Community Council, the Colomb Foundation Inc., Desire Community Housing Corp. and Neighbors United for a Better Baker.

Many of the organizations received money in better economic times when state dollars were available for legislators to spend on projects important to them in their districts.

The Colomb Foundation is a Lafayette-based organization run by the husband of state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge.

The senator’s husband, Sterling Colomb, sent Kennedy a letter this week vowing to resubmit any needed information.

“We look forward to resolving this issue in a professional and amicable letter,” Sterling Colomb wrote.

The treasurer’s office wrote back, directing the foundation to submit a progress report, cost report and disclosure on $300,000 in state funding by Sept. 4.

Kennedy’s recourse appears to be forwarding the organization’s names to a newly created state debt collection unit. He said the organizations could be forced to repay all the state money they received.