State Treasurer gives ultimatums to groups over records

State Treasurer John Kennedy
State Treasurer John Kennedy

A historic Baton Rouge high school and a foundation with ties to a state senator are among the community groups still locked in a disagreement with state Treasurer John Kennedy over financial records.

Kennedy on Thursday gave the nongovernmental organizations called NGOs in state government lingo until Oct. 15 to detail how they spent $1.2 million in state dollars. Kennedy plans to submit the NGOs to a new debt recovery office unless he receives detailed records.

The Booker T. Community Outreach Program of Monroe, Children of the Village Foundation Inc. of New Orleans, The Colomb Foundation of Lafayette, Community Awareness Revitalization and Enhancement Corporation of New Orleans, Just Willing Foundation of New Orleans, McKinley High School Alumni Association of Baton Rouge and Succor Inc. of New Orleans are listed as noncompliant by the treasurer’s office.

The organizations received money from state government in better economic times when governors let legislators put money into the state budget for projects important to their districts. Safeguards eventually were put into place to require details on how the dollars were spent.

The McKinley High School Alumni Association restored the historic McKinley High School on Thomas Delpit Drive in Baton Rouge after a fire reduced it to a brick shell. The building now serves as a home for a variety of community services.

At some point, the association received $125,000 from the state. The building’s assistant director, Garrick Mayweather, said the money was used to pay instructors, who worked with residents on preparing for the GED test.

The GED test, or General Educational Development exam, is an alternative to a high school diploma.

Mayweather said the money was received years ago. He said the challenge now is to find old documents and complete the paperwork demanded by Kennedy.

“We’re still working with them. (There’s) just a few things we’re getting,” Mayweather said. “We’re working closely with them.”

Kennedy already forwarded 19 organizations to the Office of Debt Recovery and the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office. The debt recovery unit is a newly-created effort to recoup dollars owed the state. The auditor’s office often ferrets out fraud.

Among the organizations now before the Office of Debt Recovery and the auditor’s office is Serenity 67.

Serenity 67 is in state Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb’s district. Her legislative aide, Patsy Parker, worked as Serenity’s director. The organization provided after-school tutoring to at-risk youths and helped elderly residents get to doctors’ appointments.

The Colomb Foundation also has ties to Dorsey-Colomb. Her husband, Sterling Colomb, launched the foundation after losing his previous wife to breast cancer and his daughter to convicted serial killer Derrick Todd Lee. The foundation raises cancer awareness and provides safety education to women and children.

At some point, the foundation received $300,000 in state funds. Kennedy’s office said the foundation still is not in compliance on detailing how those dollars were spent.

Sterling Colomb said Thursday that he gave Kennedy’s office a box full of receipts and check stubs three weeks ago to document how the money helped erect a building and pay for programs. He said no one notified him about any problems with the information.

“Last I heard, he was looking through it,” Colomb said.