A Baton Rouge Metro Council member and the former president of the city's police union on Monday asked two state agencies to investigate contracts issued for the BRAVE program by Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome's administration.
Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso, a frequent critic of Broome's, and Chris Stewart, the former president of the Baton Rouge police union who is now the executive director of the Louisiana Law Enforcement political action committee, sent letters to the state Legislative Auditor's Office asking that the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination program be audited.
Amoroso also sent a letter to the state Inspector General's Office asking for an investigation of some of the BRAVE contracts awarded by Broome's office.
While Broome refused to answer a reporter's questions about the federal grant program on Monday, she did issue a statement later in the day, saying she is committed to transparency in her office.
"I or the chief administrative officer will continue to do what I stated last week, which is to review every contract that comes through the Office of the Mayor-President to ensure quality, cost-effective services for the people of East Baton Rouge Parish," Broome said in the statement. "In addition, I have directed my administration to prepare a comprehensive report related to BRAVE contracts, projects and funding."
Broome said she would provide a status report by Aug. 7.
The program has been in the spotlight since Broome announced last week that it was canceling a BRAVE contract originally intended for activist Arthur "Silky Slim" Reed.
Broome announced July 27 that she was cutting the contract after Reed at a July 26 Metro Council meeting said in part that "justice came when Gavin Long came," in reference to the gunman who ambushed and killed three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers and wounded three others last year.
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The ambush came days after a Baton Rouge police officer shot and killed Alton Sterling on July 5, 2016, at the Triple S convenience store on North Foster Boulevard, an incident partially captured on cellphone videos that led to protests.
Baton Rouge activist Arthur "Silky Slim" Reed is known for his theatrics, which recently inc…
Reed's contract with BRAVE was for $9,800. He had been contracted to teach teens how to communicate effectively to avoid violence and how to increase respect between the community and police. The contract was to have run between July 2017 and September 2017.
Earlier this month, the federal government denied a request to extend funding for BRAVE, citing problems with the administration of the grant that began under former Mayor-President Kip Holden's leadership.
The city-parish left more than $1 million in BRAVE funding on the table, and the grant is set to expire Sept. 18. Since the announcement of the expiration, the city-parish has issued a series of contracts to people for services in the 70805 and 70802 high crime ZIP code areas in the parish that were targeted by BRAVE.
A community policing program modeled after the nationally acclaimed Operation Ceasefire, BRAVE was based on the premise that violence is rooted in a "group dynamic" and can be reduced when law enforcement, residents and social service providers offer gang members alternatives to a life of crime.
The federal government has denied a request by city-parish officials to extend funding for t…
Amoroso wrote that he was concerned the contracts were going to "political friends" of Broome's and fired off letters to state Inspector General Stephen Street and the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's Office asking for investigations and audits into recent BRAVE contracts.
He pointed out that the contracts were under $17,500, meaning the Metro Council would not have to approve them.
Amoroso asked for investigations into whether the city was in compliance with the federal grant requirements.
Amoroso included a spreadsheet listing some of the contracts awarded and highlighted several of those, including one signed July 7 for Isaiah Marshall. His contract calls for him to plan and organize a network of teams and players to host two "community sporting events" for kids and grown-ups living in the 70805 and 70802 ZIP codes areas.
Under the contract, Marshall will be paid $9,500. Marshall was the president of the Capital Area Transit System's board in 2013. Marshall resigned from the board after it was revealed that he knew a fellow board member was stealing agency money to pay personal bills.
Five years after the launch of the vaunted Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination project, ci…
Stewart wrote a letter to the Legislative Auditor's Office in which he says the BRAVE program led to a reduction of violent crime in Baton Rouge and that he was worried about preserving funding for law enforcement.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome said Wednesday she is "completely committed" to the fut…
Stewart questioned what became of $125,000 originally intended for LSU's role in the BRAVE program. The money would have increased LSU's BRAVE funding to $806,233, but James Gilmore, the city-parish's assistant chief administrative officer, told council members in February he needed to find out the full details of the money before asking for its approval.
"This was an important component of the program and LSU was responsible for gathering and analyzing arrest data from the Baton Rouge Police and East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office to pinpoint individuals who are members of identified groups that commit crimes with the greatest frequency," he wrote.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore said Monday that a core committee for BRAVE that he sits on usually determines what types of contracts are needed for the program. But Moore said he had not seen any of the recent BRAVE contracts, nor did he know what services they were to provide.
The recent contracts for BRAVE include transportation, sports and other programs. In his letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking to extend the BRAVE grant, Gilmore wrote that they hoped to create job skills programs, arts programs, intramural basketball, community gardens and more.
All of those goals and activities were outlined in the original BRAVE grant from 2012.
Advocate staff writer Jim Mustian contributed to this report.
Editor's Note: This story was updated Aug. 1 to reflect that Arthur Reed's BRAVE contract was for July 2017 through September 2017.