Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) member Walter Lee has been indicted by a state grand jury and the FBI is investigating State Rep. Joe Harrison (R-Gray)—both for double billing for travel.
Investigators may want to take a look at the expense records of State Rep. and Shreveport mayoral candidate Patrick Williams (D-Shreveport).
Lee’s indictment by a DeSoto Parish grand jury accuses him of the felony theft of $3,968 in fuel expenses and $1,578 in lodging in meals charged to both BESE and to the DeSoto Parish School Board at a time when Lee was simultaneously serving as DeSoto School Superintendent and as a member of BESE.
A state audit used as the basis of Lee’s indictment said he collected travel expenses from BESE for attending state board meetings even though he used a parish school system credit card to pay for those expenses and failed to reimburse the school system after receiving payment from BESE.
DeSoto District Attorney Richard Johnson, Jr. said Lee also terminated a lease early on a vehicle which cost the school system around $10,000 and then got a substantial discount on the purchase of another vehicle shortly thereafter.
Williams’ expense reimbursements, however, more closely resemble those of his colleague in the House.
Harrison has been ordered by federal investigators to produce travel expense records after the New Orleans Times-Picayune revealed in a lengthy investigative series that Harrison was reimbursed more than $50,000 by the House for travel in his district from 2010 to 2013—travel that he had also charged to his campaign.
House reimbursement records and campaign expense records reveal that in 2012 alone, Williams systematically doubled his campaign and the House for more than $4,000 for expenses that included postage, subscriptions to the Shreveport Times, travel to and from Baton Rouge, hotel accommodations in Washington, D.C., airport parking, cab fare, and air travel.
LouisianaVoice was alerted to Williams’ expense payments by former Shreveport attorney Michael Wainwright who now lives in North Carolina.
Wainwright said Williams accepts campaign contributions which then pays “thousands of dollars” in travel and other expenses. “Rep. Williams then bills the taxpayer for those same expenses (and) then keeps the reimbursement checks. He has converted the money to his personal use.”
Wainwright said the practice “is conduct which seems to fall squarely within the definition of theft,” which he said is defined under Louisiana Criminal Law as “the misappropriation or taking of anything of value which belongs to another, either without the consent of the other to the misappropriation or taking, or by means of fraudulent conduct, practices or representation.”
He provided us with a detailed itemization which we verified through our own check of Williams’ campaign expense report and House reimbursement records.
The following list includes the month of the House expense report, the amount and purpose. In the case of each expense item listed, Williams also billed his campaign:
- January: $113.73—Purchase Power Postage;
- February: $52.88—Shreveport Times Subscription;
- April: $85.51—Pitney Bowes Postage;
- May: $53.95—Shreveport Times Subscription;
- May: $107.99—Pitney Bowes Postage;
- June: $65.68—Pitney Bowes Postage;
- August: $17.98—Shreveport Times Subscription;
- October: $37.04—Shreveport Times Subscription;
- October: $85.48—Pitney Bowes Postage;
- November: $17.98- Shreveport Times Subscription;
- December: $17.98—Shreveport Times Subscription;
- November 5: $70.00—Fuel & Travel to Baton Rouge;
- November 29: $50.32—Fuel & Travel to Baton Rouge;
- December 4-8: $40.00—Shreveport Airport Parking;
- December 4-7: $838.16—Hilton Hotel, Washington, D.C. (Campaign billed for entire $912.71 amount);
- December 4-8: $169.94—Washington Travel Expense (Note: Rep. Williams was paid $745.00 in per diem expenses by the State of Louisiana while attending a NCSL conference in Washington, DC Williams also charged his campaign account $169.94 for the following per diem expenses related to this trip: Delta Airlines Travel baggage ($25), Supreme Airport Shuttle ($13), Hilton Hotel ($103), Meals ($28.44);
- February 1: $158.00—Holiday Inn, Lafayette;
- March 12-16: $197.00—In Session Fuel & Mileage (This amount was billed to his campaign while the House paid $291.38);
- March 17-20: $327.04—In Session Fuel & Mileage (billed to campaign; House paid $582.75);
- March 31-April 13: $373.09—In Session Fuel & Mileage (billed to campaign; House paid $582.75);
- April 14-27: $335.00—In Session Fuel & Mileage (billed to campaign; House paid $582.75);
- April 28-May 11: $257.00—In Session Fuel & Mileage (billed to campaign; House paid $582.75);
- May 12-25: $262.12—In Session Fuel & Mileage (billed to campaign; House paid $582.75)
- May 26-June 4: $146.00—In Session Fuel & Mileage (billed to campaign; House paid $582.75);
This is the same Rep. Patrick Williams who in 2011 authored House Bill 277 which would have required the posting of the Ten Commandments in the State Capitol. There’s no word as to whether his bill proposed deleting the Eighth Commandment.