The heretofore one-person debate over state funding of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has been ramped up a notch with Baton Rouge attorney Mary Olive Pierson’s six-page letter to State Treasurer John Kennedy that challenged Kennedy’s contentions that the Colomb Foundation owes a refund in lieu of an additional accounting of how it spent a $300,000 grant awarded the foundation in 2007.
The Colomb Foundation in Lafayette, run by Sterling Colomb, received its “public purpose” grant to “design and build a much needed community center that will house social services activities and programs that will be directed toward improving the quality of life through advocacy in crime prevention, distribution of health information and in an effort to decrease mortality rates among the at-risk population, and enhancing youth education through reading,” Pierson quoted from the foundation’s grant application.
Colomb is the husband of State Sen. Yvonne Dorsey (D-Baton rouge) but Pierson noted the two were not married until 2010, three years after the issuance of the grant.
The Colomb Foundation is one of three dozen NGOs that Kennedy said in July owed the state more than $4.5 million because of non-compliance in reporting how grant money is spent.
Several of the recipient NGOs no longer exist and the whereabouts of many of the NGO officers and representatives are unknown.
The state Capital Outlay Bill (Act 24) is peppered with local NGO projects that consume tens of millions of dollars of state taxpayer funds at a time when the state faces repeated annual budgetary shortfalls and while the number and amounts of NGO funding projects has diminished, their presence is still felt. http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/ViewDocument.aspx?d=858547&n=HB2 Act
Included in this year’s construction spending bill were such items as:
- $200,000 for a sports complex in Princeton in Bossier Parish;
- $500,000 for a water system in Bienville Parish;
- $245,000 for planning and construction of a community and recreational center in Ascension Parish;
- $380,000 for the purchase of the Lamar Dixon Development in Ascension Parish;
- $450,000 for planning and construction of a multipurpose community center in Avoyelles Parish;
- $300,000 for an airport industrial park in De Soto Parish;
- $1 million for development of an industrial site in East Carroll Parish;
- $500,000 for a new industrial facility in Evangeline Parish;
- $1.3 million for an activity center in Franklin Parish;
- $185,000 in first year expenditures for a recreational complex in Iberia Parish;
- $3 million for a new hospital in Iberville Parish;
- $2 million for a community center in Iberville Parish;
- $300,000 for street lighting and security upgrades for the Jefferson Parish Housing Authority;
- $5.2 million for recreation and achievement center in Jefferson Parish;
- $3.5 million for construction of Parc des Familles in Jefferson Parish;
- $735,000 for the Woodmere Community Center in Jefferson Parish;
- $400,000 for the Avondale Booster Club and Playground upgrades in Jefferson Parish;
- $17 million for a new hospital in St. Bernard Parish;
- $220,000 for civic center planning and construction in St. Martin Parish;
- $300,000 for recreational improvements at Kemper Williams Park in St. Mary Parish;
- $125,000 for the St. Mary Parish Tourist Commission;
- $980,000 for a community health center and livestock facility addition in St. Tammany Parish;
- $400,000 for a multipurpose livestock and agricultural facility in Tangipahoa Parish;
- $180,000 for a recreation complex in Vernon Parish;
- $180,000 for improvements to rodeo arena in Vernon Parish;
Also funded were various local court houses, jails, water and sewer systems, local airports, fire districts, parish road improvements, councils on aging, and municipal projects too numerous to list here.
For a list of 2013 NGO funding requests, go here: http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/NGO/NgoSearch.aspx
A spokesperson for Sen. Dorsey has contended all along that the organization is in compliance but Pierson’s letter of Wednesday, Nov. 20, was the first time that an attorney has weighed in on the issue.
An addition to her letter which she said she was sending to news outlets (LouisianaVoice was not among those to whom she sent copies of her letter—and yes, we feel slighted—although she did include a couple of long-retired reporters in her list of 24 media contacts) “because of all the fanfare you (Kennedy) have caused and the press coverage you demanded through your press releases, Pierson attached 10 exhibits—just like a lawyer in a real trial—which contained another 61 pages of receipts, emails and letters.
Among the exhibits were receipts from retail outlets for supplies, emails from the Legislative Auditor’s office indicating that office had found no irregularities, and even emails and letters from Kennedy’s office indicating its satisfaction with documents provided by the foundation.
“I suspect that the compliance by the foundation does not fit into your apparent political agenda for re-election or, even better, a campaign for governor,” Pierson wrote.
“On behalf of the Colomb Foundation, I demand it be deemed in compliance and that this matter be closed…and a letter be sent to Mr. Colomb ‘notifying him of the closure,’” her letter said.
“Failing the closure of the matter by your office on or before noon on Dec. 2, 2013, I have advised Mr. Colomb and the Foundation that a suit for mandamus may be filed, directed to you to compel you to perform the only remaining ministerial duty of closing the file because there is no further accounting to be done for any legitimate purpose,” she said.
And of course, her letter contained the requisite threat to sue for damages: “In addition, your prior actions, performed under the color of state law, have caused substantial damage to the Foundation and Mr. Colomb, if the matter cannot be amicably resolved by that date a claim for said damages will also be filed.”