Former USS Kidd director denies allegations of mismanagement

Maury Drummond, the former executive director of the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum for 22 years, said Tuesday that his reputation has been unfairly and cruelly maligned by recent reports suggesting he mismanaged the commission and was responsible for the agency’s financial problems.

The state Legislative Auditor’s Office on Monday released an accountant’s review of the small state agency’s 2013 finances. The independent report flagged the agency for inadequate record keeping, questionable purchases and a $300,000 debt to the Louisiana Office of Risk Management for unpaid insurance premiums.

The audit also noted that the last three years of spending under the agency is being investigated by the Inspector General’s Office, in particular for the “questionable spending” by Drummond.

“It’s been very painful,” Drummond said. “I spent all those years at the USS Kidd to have all this in the paper. I care too much about the exhibits. I care too much about the Fourth of July.”

Drummond, a former LSU basketball star, ended his long career with the famed naval destroyer memorial in December, citing health concerns. He was given a “meritorious service” award by the commission upon his retirement and honored with a ceremony praising his dedication.

He was succeeded by Alex Juan, who previously worked as his administrative assistant. Juan had served as a captain and public affairs officer with the 159th Fighter Wing of the Louisiana Air National Guard.

In an emotional phone call with a reporter on Tuesday, Drummond said he and his wife are devastated by the suggestions of his mismanagement. He added that the allegations have effectively undone all the hard work he’s poured into the agency for two decades. He also said he was considering legal options to clear his name.

“They can look all they want, but they won’t find anything that my wife and I did wrong,” he said. “We care too much about it. We did everything we could, going as far as building exhibits at 1 in the morning, installing and hammering exhibits in the middle of the night.”

Drummond said he has not once been contacted or questioned by officials with the Legislative Auditor’s or the state Inspector General’s offices. He said if somebody had contacted him, he could have explained some of the issues in the Monday report.

The review found that the Louisiana Naval War Memorial Commission owes the Louisiana Office of Risk Management $334,440 in unpaid insurance premiums. Drummond said the commission was aware of the debt but realized that the agency with its modest self-generated revenues could not keep up with the climbing premiums.

He said the agency paid as much as they could every year but couldn’t catch up. But he said the Office of Risk Management was aware of their situation and never canceled their insurance or rejected their claims.

Juan said the agency is paying $5,000 per month to pay the down the debt.

The audit also took issue with a lack of management oversight and proper documentation for spending. Out of 145 items tested in the audit, 74 lacked “proper support to provide assurance that the expenditure was a legitimate business expense.” One of the items was a personal expenditure not reimbursed by the employee, and another item was a gift card with no specified business purpose.

Drummond said he could have provided documentation for expenditures if anyone had bothered to ask him.

“This check I wrote to buy a gift card was for an employee of the month,” he said. “That’s how silly some of this is.”

Drummond also said he was disappointed in Juan’s decision to cancel Fourth of July activities at the Kidd, including the mock aerial attack and allowing people to watch the fireworks from the ship.

Juan said in July that she and the commission had concerns about safety and being able to finance the event that led them to cancel the Baton Rouge Independence Day festivities.

“I can assure you the funding for the Fourth of July was available; you just got to go raise it,” Drummond said. “They don’t just come and hand you a check.”

He said he had previously secured corporate sponsors to help fund the events.

Juan said she was disappointed to hear that Drummond was cross with her and continues to have a “great deal of respect” for the work he’s done.

“I’m sorry he feels that I’m doing something to him, but I do have to cooperate with the auditors and they follow the money trail,” Juan said. “It’s not my place to question them on the ongoing financial review.”

Officials with the Inspector General’s Office said they don’t comment on ongoing investigations and didn’t know when the report would be released.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen. For coverage of city-parish government, follow City Hall Buzz blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/cityhallbuzz/.