We’ve seen how the Office of Inspector General has a travel budget for out-of-state conferences and conventions that is more than twice the amount budgeted for in-state investigations of official corruption. (See story HERE)
Now, LouisianaVoice has learned that even though Inspector General Stephen Street receives $230.77 per two-week pay period—$6,000 per year, or $500 per month—in addition to his regular salary of $132,620, he also makes generous use of state vehicles while traveling on state business.
Mileage allowances for certain state officials is optional and is paid in lieu of their use of state vehicles.
One former employee said Street was told that it was improper for him to use state vehicles when he was receiving the mileage allowance. As a result of that exchange, the former employee said, Street would have subordinates check cars out in their names and accompany Street on trips.
Two of those, the ex-employee said, were former agency attorney Robert Collins and current legal counsel Joe Lotwick.
Records obtained from OIG show Collins and Lotwick each checked out state vehicles on numerous occasions in 2013 and 2014 and Lotwick also checked out a vehicle on three occasions in May of this year.
Street, contacted by LouisianaVoice, said, “Whoever told you that Joe Lotwick and Robert Collins checked out vehicles in their name so that I could drive them in order to ‘circumvent’ a ‘prohibition’ is an unequivocal liar. Robert and Joe are both honorable and honest men with distinguished legal careers and impeccable reputations. Neither I nor they would do such a thing.”
Street’s name was not listed as checking out a state vehicle in either 2013 or 2014.
In 2015, however, Street is shown as having used a state vehicle on 10 separate occasions over five months.
Those trips and the dates in 2015 they were made included:
- January 21: Trips to the New Orleans FBI offices and to the Louisiana District Attorney Association in Baton Rouge;
- March 2: To Covington, New Orleans and back to Baton Rouge;
- March 3: From his home to the OIG office;
- March 3 and 4: Destinations for three trips redacted but mileage driven was two miles for each trip—the same district as the mileage reported for the trip from his home to the office;
- March 9: Baton Rouge to Crowley, Crowley to Port Allen, Port Allen to Baton Rouge;
- March 16: Baton Rouge to Opelousas, Opelousas to Port Allen, Port Allen to Baton Rouge;
- August 28: New Orleans FBI offices;
- September 3: New Orleans and return to Baton Rouge;
- November 2: Trips of 2.6 and three miles to destinations that were redacted;
- November 10: To New Orleans and return to Baton Rouge and an additional trip of two miles, destination also redacted;
- November 17: Trip of three miles to destination that is also redacted.
So why the destination on a two-mile trip be redacted?
“On the occasions you asked about in 2015 when I used an OIG vehicle, I had time-sensitive OIG official business and my personal vehicle was not available,” Street said. You have the records that show the combined fuel cost for those trips was $95.88.”
If he was taking the state vehicle home and driving it to work, he would be in violation of the provision prohibiting him from both using a state vehicle and receiving an allowance for mileage.
In the past, the OIG’s office has steadfastly refused to pursue a matter concerning a state board employee who turned in time sheets showing she was working in the office while simultaneously posting Facebook photos of her and her family on vacation trips. The investigator on that case was ordered to re-write his entire report.
The office also refused to even investigate complaints of two board members each claiming mileage to meetings even though they rode together.
LouisianaVoice has also learned of other apparent illegal activity that OIG failed to pursue or issued reports of no wrongdoing.
Of course, the office spared no expense or effort in attempting to prosecute former Alcohol and Tobacco Control office director MURPHY PAINTER at the express wishes of Bobby Jindal. Jindal desperately wanted to discredit Painter over Painter’s refusal to grant a liquor permit that would have benefitted New Orleans Saints owner and generous Jindal campaign supporter Tom Benson.
That PROSECUTION fell flat and the state ended up having to pick up Painter’s legal expenses.
“I‘m glad that you decided to contact me before posting another column,” Street said. “Had you done that before posting last week’s column on OIG travel, you would have learned quite a bit.”