A report released late Monday from Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome's office shows a number of ways in which the anti-gang Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination program went wrong, and pins the blame for BRAVE's problems squarely on the shoulders former Mayor-President Kip Holden's administration.
After several calls for investigations into the handling of BRAVE sprouted up last week, Broome said her office was suspending all contracts issued through the program between mid-June and mid-July and compiling a report on BRAVE's programming and finances. She delivered that report Monday, but contracts remain suspended as further reviews are to come.
A string of emails and documents released with the report show the city-parish was behind on submitting progress reports about BRAVE, and that federal money was being withheld because of the lack of reporting. Broome discovered those problems after she assumed office in January.
Reached Monday evening, Holden said Broome is trying to deflect attention from questionable contacts she issued under BRAVE. Those contacts, including one for activist Arthur "Silky Slim" Reed, have caused an uproar.
"I am not going to take the blame for her mistakes," Holden said. "Twelve years, I was there. Not one official has called me from any department whatsoever."
He accused Broome of a "sleight of hand," adding that "BRAVE got tremendous accolades under me and she pushed it to its lowest point."
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor's office will investigate the contracts issued under the B…
BRAVE served only 63 youths between 2012 and 2016, but the original grant proposed serving 150, according to an Aug. 4 email from Carmen Santiago Roberts, manager of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Program. All the while, BRAVE received more than $3 million to carry out its mission, but never used more than $1 million to do so.
Line after line of zeroes appear on reports the city-parish was supposed to submit to the U.S. Department of Justice tracking 2016 metrics, such as the number of new youths participating in BRAVE, the number of youths with gun-related offenses, and the number of youths who were victims of gun-related crimes.
"I'm not sure how this gap went on for so long between your reports and what actually is required to be reported," city-parish Assistant Chief Administrative Officer James Gilmore wrote in a May 12 email to LSU researchers and to officials at the District Attorney's office.
"We have been in clean-up and asking-for-forgiveness mode since we took office," Gilmore added.
Cecile Guin, director of LSU's Office of Social Service Research and Development, spearheaded the BRAVE project on LSU's end. Guin responded in that email thread that LSU had been tracking the necessary metrics and sending them to the city-parish, so the information must have been caught and improperly administered in City Hall.
"We have worked harder on this project than anyone I can think of," Guin responded in the May 12 email thread. "We have had good results overall, in spite of the city (prior administration)."
The email threads also show many conversations about the $125,000 in grant money originally intended for LSU in February. The money has raised eyebrows over the past week, with many asking why LSU never received the funds. LSU had not responded to inquiries about it.
The $125,000 originally intended for LSU's work on the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination…
After Gilmore pulled the $125,000 off the Metro Council agenda in February, media coverage triggered him to email LSU asking for answers about their funding. Gilmore sent a March 1 email to Guin and others asking why media reports were saying the $125,000 addition would have brought LSU's total BRAVE funding to $806,233. The city-parish's own Metro Council agenda that Gilmore pulled the item from lists that figure, but Gilmore wrote he would not be surprised "if the media is completely false."
An LSU accounting manager confirmed that the $806,233 figure is the correct total, should the city-parish have given LSU the $125,000, given the city-parish's existing contract with BRAVE is for $681,233. Guin also said the money would have paid for data analysis, a final report for the project, a monthly analysis of violent crime in the 70805 and 70802 ZIP code areas, and more.
Last week, Gilmore said LSU would have needed the $125,000 only if the BRAVE grant would have been extended. But the email chain from March indicates LSU was, indeed, expecting the money in the spring.
"It will not pay for all that we do, but we are committed to completing the project as we have always done," Guin wrote on March 1.
The city's report on Monday says there was not enough money earmarked in the BRAVE budget for LSU to provide those services.
Long before the city-parish applied for the BRAVE grant to be extended, Gilmore knew the chances of carrying forward BRAVE were slim to none. Roberts, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Program manager, sent multiple messages about the city-parish's checkered history administering the grant.
Though the city-parish did not publicly say the BRAVE grant would not be extended until July 19, Gilmore knew as early as June 9 the extension would not go through. He sent an email that day to Roberts, telling her they recognized it would be impossible to spend the $1 million in unspent BRAVE money over a few months.
"What we'd rather do is implement the program as it currently exists, however doing a much better job than the previous administration at grants management, program implementation and reporting," Gilmore wrote.
Roberts responded that she accepted the plan.
Part of that plan included paying contractors more quickly than would usually happen. Gilmore explained in a June 22 email that one condition of spending BRAVE money until the feds pull the plug in September was that it not get caught up in bureaucracy.
In the June 22 email, Gilmore blamed the Metro Council approval process — which takes at least a month — as one factor why BRAVE had more than $1 million that was never spent.
Roberts outlines other problems in her Aug. 4 email, including no evidence that case management was provided under the grant and that money was not being spent. For example, she cites a $408,000 contract with Family Youth Service Center to provide case management, transportation and community outreach for BRAVE, but says there was no documentation of how many youths received such services.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore on Wednesday said that the BRAVE cont…
"The objectives of BRAVE were and will remain important," Broome said in a statement Monday. "My administration will continue to address those issues that have a significant impact on the Baton Rouge community. We will also continue to be committed to transparency, and continue to move forward and work towards creating a better future for the citizens of Baton Rouge."