James Gilmore 45.012517.jpg

James Gilmore, Ph.D., one of newly-elected East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome's new Assistant Chief Administrative Officers,Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017 at 'Lunch With The Supe' at Juban’s Restaurant.

ADVOCATE STAFF PHOTO BY TRAVIS SPRADLING

One of Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome's top deputies and first hires is resigning from his post as assistant chief administrative officer.

James Gilmore, best known recently for his role in administering the federal Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination anti-gang initiative, has submitted a letter of resignation to the city-parish. Gilmore has been the face in recent weeks — for better or worse — for the now-maligned BRAVE program, a once popular program targeting gang activity that has been marred by calls for investigations and accusations of mismanagement after the U.S. Department of Justice pulled the plug on the federal funding.

Gilmore's last day will be Sept. 1.

"I have decided to pursue private sector opportunities that will allow me to utilize my skills in a capacity that aligns with my career goals," Gilmore wrote in his letter of resignation dated Aug. 14. He thanked Broome and said he will continue to be engaged on both the political and civic levels in Baton Rouge.

Asked Monday morning about his resignation, Gilmore said he was "requesting approval to speak on this topic" from Broome's office. Communications Director Janene Tate said later Monday afternoon that Gilmore "has no comment" and Gilmore did not respond to another request to speak about his departure. Tate added Monday night that Gilmore "chose not to comment, and was not directed by our office to not comment."

Interim Chief Administrative Officer Jim Llorens said Gilmore's resignation may have been related to the recent controversy over BRAVE. Gilmore was intimately involved in administration of the federal grant: He unsuccessfully asked DOJ to carry forward more than $1 million in unused funding and initiated several BRAVE contracts that Broome suspended pending review.

"On James' part, he certainly is interested in the success of the mayor and certainly didn't want anything to appear negative toward that," Llorens said about Gilmore and his work with BRAVE.

Broome also issued a statement Monday saying she appreciated Gilmore's commitment to her administration and that she wished him "success and blessings."

Controversy about BRAVE erupted late last month after local activist Arthur "Silky Slim" Reed said at a Metro Council meeting that justice came to Baton Rouge when a gunman ambushed six law enforcement officers in July 2016, killing three and injuring the other three, two of them grievously. 

Broome had tapped Reed to serve on a police advisory committee at the beginning of her administration in January. She announced July 27 that "a member of my staff" — Gilmore — had engaged Reed in a $9,800 BRAVE contract. Broome canceled the contract with Reed, but faced scrutiny for other contracts recently issued for BRAVE as well that were all under the monetary threshold that would have required Metro Council approval.

Strings of emails released by Broome's office show it was Gilmore who worked on lining up a BRAVE contract with Reed and who initiated other contracts for BRAVE as well.

Gilmore has emphasized it was his predecessors in former Mayor-President Kip Holden's administration who botched the administration of the BRAVE grant, specifically by not spending all the grant money. While Holden has denied any problems with the grant during his tenure, an email from a Justice Department official to Gilmore outlines various problems with implementation, including not spending the dollars.

"We have been in clean up and asking-for-forgiveness mode since we took office," Gilmore wrote in a May 12 email to LSU researchers and to officials at the District Attorney's office.

Llorens insisted that City Hall higher-ups did not pressure Gilmore to leave, despite the BRAVE hoopla.

State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle — who is close to Gilmore and has come to his defense repeatedly during the BRAVE commotion — said Monday he may have wanted to step out of the way and no longer be a distraction.

"Why is it that everyone's acting like, oh my God, Dr. Gilmore did something wrong?" Marcelle said in a July 28 interview with The Advocate. "It seems to me she's singling him out and I don't understand why."

In a Facebook post that same day, Marcelle accused Broome of having thrown "Dr. James Gilmore under the bus" in relation to contracts Gilmore issued for the BRAVE program.

Several of Gilmore's friends also quickly started posting "I stand with James Gilmore" and similar supportive messages on social media after the BRAVE controversy in late July and early August.

Since then, Gilmore has not been as visible at City Hall as he once was. Notably, he missed the Aug. 9 Metro Council meeting, despite a discussion that had been scheduled for it about BRAVE. Calls to Gilmore's cellphone in recent weeks have also resulted in messages saying the number being called is "not a working number."

Gilmore also did not attend Monday evening's Planning Commission meeting, though he sits on the board as Broome's appointee.

Llorens said he is not worried that Gilmore's departure will leave City Hall short-staffed at the highest level of Broome's administration. In addition to BRAVE, Gilmore worked on economic development, purchasing and some grants.

Llorens said Broome's office will review applications they have received for other positions to see if any of them might be a good fit for the assistant chief administrative officer role. But he also said City Hall might restructure the position, given that they are currently working on the 2018 budget, and see whether it makes more sense to have two assistant chief administrative officers rather than three.

Broome still has not hired a permanent chief administrative officer who would generally oversee day-to-day operations of city government. Llorens is filling the CAO role on an interim basis, and Gilmore has worked alongside Rowdy Gaudet and Tamiara Wade as assistant chief administrative officers.

Broome announced Gilmore's hiring in late January. He is the former director of the Louisiana Children's Cabinet.

 

Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.​