Audit: Items missing from Newman Community Center

More than $10,000 worth of inventory at a city-parish funded community center in north Baton Rouge is missing, according to an internal audit released this week.

The report, released Tuesday, indicates at least seven items with values of more than $1,000 each were missing from the Jewel J. Newman Community Center in Scotlandville.

The items include a piano, two desks, two Dell computers, a digital camera and volleyball equipment, all purchased between 1992 and 2008 and totalling $10,052.

The audit also found 10 items each valued at less than $500 were missing, totaling another $1,012. Those missing items include several Xbox and PlayStation 3 games, a laser copier and a digital camera.

Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel, who oversees the community center, said the inventory went missing under the watch of former community center Director Carl Slaughter. She said this is another example of Slaughter’s mismanagement, adding she has since reported the missing items to Baton Rouge police.

Last year, Banks-Daniel fired Slaughter, who served as director for more than 30 years. The firing led to an outcry from community members who supported Slaughter’s leadership.

Banks-Daniel said she found the audit report “alarming, but not surprising.”

“I believe if it had not been for the separation of the former manager (Slaughter), then more things would have disappeared,” she said.

On Slaughter’s last day of work in October, Banks-Daniel said, she showed up at the community center and found him attempting to remove several black garbage bags filled with public property. She said she confiscated his keys, reported the action to the parish attorney’s office and had the locks changed.

Slaughter’s attorney, Jill Craft, called the allegation “ridiculous,” adding that Slaughter has been prevented from getting many of his personal items from the facility.

Craft said Slaughter has not worked for the community center for months now, so she does not know if the items went missing under Slaughter’s watch or after he left.

“How can Ms. Banks-Daniel continue to blame him for problems at the community center, which is now under her watch?” Craft asked, adding that Banks-Daniel has a “personal vendetta” against Slaughter.

Slaughter is appealing his termination to the municipal civil service board. He requested the hearing, scheduled 9 a.m. Thursday at 1755 Florida St., be open to the public.

Slaughter argues that because he was a civil service employee, Banks-Daniel lacked the authority to fire him.

Slaughter’s brother James Slaughter later became involved with an effort to recall Banks-Daniel from office.

James Slaughter now claims the recall is unrelated to his brother’s termination; however, his website, expresses support for Carl Slaughter.

April 15 is the deadline to collect the 7,151 signatures needed to put the recall to a vote of the public. In recall drives, state law imposes a six-month deadline to collect the signatures that starts from the time organizers file their intent for the petition drive.

Donald Ray Adams, who filed the recall paperwork, said last month that volunteers had about half of the required signatures.

Banks-Daniel said she is currently looking for a permanent director for the community center, but in the meantime protocols have been implemented to address concerns in the audit.

The city-parish has five community centers that generally target lower-income areas of the parish. The centers connect residents to city-parish resources and sometimes offer programs such as tutoring, summer camps and rental spaces for community meetings and events.