- Elliott Stonecipher
Government is a public trust. It is therefore wholly dependent on the confidence of those who fund it. As confidence collapses, the tax base flees. Nothing undermines public confidence as certainly as wide-open corruption.
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It is nowhere written that misfeasance and malfeasance in Shreveport City Hall will not lead to its bankruptcy.
Last Saturday morning, the Shreveport Times published reporter Sara McNeil’s article which shocked even me. As I recapped in an article that morning (see link #1 below), a leak to Ms. McNeil had exposed recent, all-but-unthinkable, mayoral and other City Hall oversight failures.
Included among these was non-payment of city employee payroll taxes, failure to timely submit data for its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, and failure to submit required records for the City’s independent audit.
Put directly, not only were these City Hall financial basics being ignored or worse, but the protections in place to prevent them have collapsed, as proven by hundreds-of-thousands taxpayer dollars in resulting penalties.
Incredibly, fewer than four hours later, a friend shared worse news with me: Mayor Perkins had, over the July 4th weekend, sneaked into the official Agenda of Monday and Tuesday’s Council meetings his “notice of intent to call election” … a $220,000,000 bond issue, that is, City debt. (See link #2 below.)
The action by Perkins starts the clock as necessary to have the bond issue on the November 16th election ballot. That puts Perkins’ $220,000,000 bonanza for friends on the same ballot as the presumed gubernatorial run-off between fellow Democrat John Bel Edwards and a Republican.
In other words, juiced turnout for Perkins’ side of the political street. Most insiders expect that the infamous / illegitimate Cross Bayou development will (somehow) be on that bond issue ballot.
Even as these developments shocked us, Ms. McNeil and Gerry May at KTBS-TV News (see link #3 below) were readying reports about our mayor’s refusal to produce documents a city councilman was battling to see.
The documents deal with yet another chunk of Shreveport brokenness, its infamously corrupt, billion-dollar sewer repair project set out years ago in a Consent Decree with the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Clearly, Perkins has much to hide in that matter, too, at the additional expense of public confidence.
Then, yesterday, the City Council voted 4-3 in favor of an Audit & Finance Committee probe into the Finance Department failures / corruption. Perhaps well-intentioned, no such insider investigation in this City Hall can raise confidence. Melissa Kakareka reported on that vote for KSLA-TV News last night. (See link #4 below.)
Also over these four days, I have continued work on another City Hall collapse … years of apparently deliberate overbilling for its water and sewer services. The resulting three class-action lawsuits on behalf of Shreveport homes and businesses are now being litigated.
Caddo District Judge Michael Pitman has found the City liable in the first and “smallest” of the suits, involving some $2.5 million in overbilling commercial customers. The second and third suits, yet to be heard, could push the City’s total liability to $60,000,000 or more.
Mayor Perkins has publicly denied the existence of the second and third lawsuits, about which a Court hearing is scheduled for September 3rd.
Regardless that the basics of financial management are no longer possible in City Hall (including balancing payroll accounts and taxes), and regardless that the corruption wolf once at our door now runs the house, here is where we find ourselves …
… atop $490,000,000 in annual spending and perhaps as much as $60,000,000 owed to water and sewer customers, our mayor and City Council intend to pile on $220,000,000 more in bond issue proceeds and $100,000,000 more in Consent Decree projects.
If this is not official malfeasance, what is?
© 2019 Elliott Stonecipher … ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
1. Elliott Stonecipher article, Saturday, July 6, 2019, 12:30 PM:
2. Elliott Stonecipher article, Saturday, July 6, 2019, 6:00 PM:
3. Gerry May KTBS-TV News report, Tuesday, July 9, 2019:
4. Melissa Kakareka, KSLA-TV News report, Tuesday, July 9, 2019: