The Louisiana Office of Inspector General spent more than twice as much on attending conferences and conventions for fiscal years 2012-2016 than it did on travel for investigating public corruption, the job it is charged by statute with doing, according to RECORDS obtained by LouisianaVoice.
A former investigator for the OIG, which has experienced unusually high turnover among its investigative agents, said Inspector General Stephen Street was always “very secretive” about revealing the agency’s budget to subordinates. “He never let us see any of the agency’s finances,” the former investigator said.
By combining the yearly budgets, the totals reflect that OIG had a five-year budget of $45,475 for all (in-state and out-of-state) field (investigative) travel compared to a combined budget for all convention and conference travel of $75,450, a difference of almost $30,000.
Five-year expenditures for both field travel and conference and convention travel fell well below the respective figures budgeted but conference and convention travel expenditures of $63,735 were more than double the $30,011 spent on investigating reports of wrongdoing by public officials.
By breaking the budgets down to expenditures for only in-state field travel and out-of-state conferences and conventions, the contrast was even more glaring.
Only $11,200 of a total budget of $30,315 was spent on in-state field travel for the five years (an average of $2,240 per year) while the $52,535 spent on out-of-state conferences and conventions ($10,509 per year) exceeded its $42,135 total budget for that purpose by nearly 25 percent.
In looking at yearly budget line items, Street’s office exceeded its budget for out-of-state conferences and conventions by 50 percent in 2013 and by 68 percent the following year.
The budget for travel to out-of-state conferences and conventions was $10,210 for each of those years but in fiscal year 2013, Street’s office spent $15,350 and spent even more—$17,181—in fiscal 2014 on non-investigation related out-of-state travel
Also for both 2013 and 2014, the OIG’s budget for in-state field travel was $11,933 but the agency spent only $2,811 in 2013 and $4,447 in 2014 for that purpose.
TRAVEL RECORDS provided by the OIG’s office show that beginning in August 2012, Street, often accompanied by as many as three or four other OIG personnel traveled on the state dime to such places as West Palm Beach, Clearwater, Destin and Jacksonville, Florida; Austin and San Antonio, Texas, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Boston, Detroit, Memphis, Baltimore, Charlotte, Washington, D.C., Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Newark, New Jersey.
Of those 22 trips taken by Street and OIG staff members, five (taken by someone other than Street) were described as “investigation related.” All the others were said to have been for training or for Association of Inspectors General (AIG) functions.
Street is the AIG national president and also serves as an adjunct instructor for the National White Collar Crime Center and the Inspector General Investigator Academy. “Whenever I teach for those organizations,” he said, “they cover 100 percent of travel and lodging.”
Still, at the end of the day, one has to wonder how an agency charged with investigating public corruption in a state so riddled with public corruption as Louisiana can possibly justify racking up expenditures for out-of-state convention and conference travel that more than doubles that spent on in-state investigative travel.
But then again, we may have answered our own rhetorical question with that “so riddled with public corruption as Louisiana” line.