Program to provide uniforms for homeless children investigated

Federal investigators want to know whether two Baton Rouge residents stole money that should have benefited homeless or displaced children in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.

An internal audit by the school system in late 2009 revealed more than $150,000 had been paid for school uniforms from a company that listed its office at what proved to be an abandoned building in the 3500 block of Evangeline Street.

Auditors could not account at that time for hundreds of uniforms reported to have been purchased for homeless students. They also reported some uniforms found in boxes were “dirty and worn” or in styles and colors not permitted by the school system.

Now, court records show the U.S. Attorney’s Office wants Chief U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson to issue an order requiring Calvin E. Beal, 59, to produce tax and financial records, contracts, all information related to school uniforms and other documents of his M.C. & B. Enterprises LLC. Federal attorneys argue those documents could show whether Beal and Carolyn Coleman, 58, committed frauds against the school system and federal government.

Coleman served for more than 15 years as coordinator of the school system’s homeless program. She ceased serving in that position shortly after the 2009 audit and became a teacher at Winbourne Elementary School.

On Friday, system spokesman Keith Bromery said Coleman now teaches reading at Belaire High School.

The federal demand for Beal’s documents is unusual because it was served on Beal’s attorney Nov. 18 in the form of a civil-case request rather than a grand jury subpoena or other criminal court order.

Requests for comment were left Thursday and Friday at a phone number used by Beal in the past, but there was no response.

“Mr. Beal is not going to have any comment,” said Joseph J. Long, Beal’s attorney. Long declined to comment further.

Attempts to contact Coleman at a phone number she has used in the past were unsuccessful Thursday and Friday.

Coleman has not limited her pursuits to those of public education. In 2004, she campaigned unsuccessfully for the District 10 seat on the Metro Council.

Coleman has been active in programs for homeless kids in other areas of the state.

The 2013 annual report for the Lafayette-based nonprofit Louisiana Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth listed Coleman as its president.

A 2006 web page for LAEHCY lists the association’s phone number in Lafayette. A call to that number Friday was answered by a recording of Patsy Williams at the federal programs section of the Lafayette Parish School System. Williams, who did not call back, is listed on LAEHCY’s annual report as the association’s treasurer.

In Baton Rouge, Beal and Coleman worked together at another nonprofit years before the audit that preceded the end of Coleman’s reign as director of the school system’s homeless program.

That nonprofit was The Economic Freedom Movement Association. Listed by the Secretary of State’s Office as having its charter revoked in 2010, that association’s 2007 report listed Beal as its director and Coleman as its secretary.

The association’s address was listed as the same abandoned building that school system auditors reported for Beal’s M.C. & B. Enterprises.

Acting U.S. Attorney Walt Green declined to comment Thursday on the continuing federal efforts to obtain Beal’s company records.

In his request for a court order from Jackson, Assistant U.S. Attorney James L. Nelson said Beal’s company records could show whether Beal and Coleman conspired “to submit false claims and embezzle funds from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that were earmarked for homeless and displaced children.”

Nelson added that Long told him the demand for documents violates Beal’s “Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

According to Nelson, Long added he would ask Jackson not to issue any court order “until such time as his client was no longer potentially exposed to criminal charges relating to the allegations of fraud.”

On Dec. 27, Nelson asked Jackson to sanction Beal and his company for contempt of court for refusing to turn over the requested documents.

By 6 p.m. Friday, the judge had not filed any public decision on Nelson’s request, and Long had not filed any public motion for denial of that request.