La. treasurer: Community groups must detail spending

The clock is ticking down for dozens of community organizations caught in a disagreement with state Treasurer John Kennedy.

Kennedy’s office released on Thursday a list of organizations that he said failed to detail how they spent state dollars. He said he will submit noncompliant organizations’ names next week to the Office of Debt Recovery, which could demand repayment of state dollars.

The list of 29 groups includes organizations with ties to former or current state legislators.

State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb’s husband, Sterling Colomb, started the Colomb Foundation, which at some point received $300,000 in taxpayer dollars. Kennedy wants to know how the money was spent.

Dorsey-Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, did not respond to a request for comment via text message.

Earlier this month, Sterling Colomb, sent Kennedy a letter vowing to resubmit any needed information. The Treasurer’s Office said Thursday that legislative staff now is sending communications about the foundation’s progress.

The organizations are supposed to file paperwork after receiving money from the state. The required paperwork includes budgets, cost reports and the dollars’ public purposes.

The paperwork requirements were created amid criticism about what started as so-called slush funds for urban and rural development and evolved into NGOs.

Former Gov. Edwin Edwards created the urban fund in the 1980s to give black legislators more money to spend. Soon, rural legislators started getting a slice of the pie.

The criticism was that the dollars, which eventually numbered in the millions, only went to legislators in favor with the governor.

Then-Gov. Kathleen Blanco got rid of the urban and rural development funds after the hurricanes. NGOs then started popping up throughout the annual state budget. The organizations that secured money usually were important to a legislator.

Among the organizations that Kennedy wants more information on are a Baker neighborhood organization, a basketball team, a social club and a health care center.

Some of the groups are working with Kennedy’s office. Others simply are listed as “not in compliance.”

Desire Community Housing Corp. is among those listed with no indication it is working with the Treasurer’s Office.

The New Orleans organization counsels homeowners facing foreclosure in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes.

Wilbert Thomas Sr., chief executive officer of the Desire Community Housing Corp., said his organization detailed how it spent $130,000 in state dollars.

“I’m going to call him again. But we sent it twice. Let me call them and see what else they want,” he said.

The latest list can be found at: