Jindal names 3 veterans to USS Kidd commission

Gov. Bobby Jindal appointed Thursday three new board members to the commission that oversees the USS Kidd museum, whose finances were questioned by auditors earlier this week.

Jindal named three former Navy men to the Louisiana Naval War Memorial Commission.

The commission serves to control, maintain, and exhibit the World War II destroyer USS Kidd in Baton Rouge.

State Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, was a captain for the Judge Advocate Generals Corp of the U.S. Navy. Foil said he was recommended by commission member Henson Moore, the former congressman who was instrumental in bringing the Kidd to Baton Rouge as a floating museum.

Jindal also named Robert Hawthorne Jr., a founder of the Baton Rouge law firm Kean Miller LLP. He was an enlisted member in U.S. Naval Reserve from 1955 to 1963.

The governor also tapped Hans J. Sternberg, who is the chairman and chief executive officer of Starmount Life Insurance Company, Starmount Insurance Agency and Starmount Financial. Sternberg was a former lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.

Moore’s call came before the report was released by the Louisiana legislative auditor, Foil said Thursday, adding that he is now aware.

“I guess we’ll have to look into that when we officially are appointed and join the board,” Foil said.

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 Maury Drummond, the former executive director of the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum for 22 years who retired in December.

Drummond denies any wrongdoing.

“It’s been very painful,” Drummond said in response to the report. “They can look all they want, but they won’t find anything that my wife and I did wrong … 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.”

The 17-member commission includes the secretary of the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, and the secretary of Veterans Affairs. The remaining 15 members are gubernatorial appointments, subject to state Senate confirmation.