Meeting a deadline set by state administrators, Mayor-President Kip Holden submitted a plan Monday for how he wants to spend nearly $1 million in federal Homeland Security grant funds.
The spending plan includes money for “interoperable communications equipment,” camera surveillance equipment, iPads, training classroom upgrades, a “video wall” and other items.
The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness earlier this month assumed control over administering the two grants after Holden refused to follow certain rules imposed by GOHSEP.
The state agency, as grantee, distributes federal Homeland Security money to the parishes. Its rules require that the sheriffs of each parish review and sign off on such grants. Holden contends GOHSEP lacks the legal authority to impose that requirement.
The mayor had been given a deadline of Monday to submit a spending plan for the city-parish’s 75 percent share of the two grants for fiscal years 2009 and 2010, totaling $921,128.
A law enforcement group chaired by East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux submitted a separate spending plan last week for the 25 percent share of the federal grants designated for law enforcement.
The group wants to use its $330,721 share for multi-agency training and to buy a two-man “skywatch” observation tower. The tower would be available for parish law enforcement agencies to use for large gatherings, such as football games, fairs and similar events.
Holden made it clear that he strongly disagrees with how GOHSEP is administering the grants.
Holden wrote Mark Cooper, GOHSEP’s executive director, in a letter dated Monday that “our acquiescence in this resolution” should not be interpreted as meaning the mayor agrees GOHSEP has the legal authority to impose special conditions on federal grants.
“The plans are submitted with full reservation of rights to directly challenge through appropriate channels the authority of GOHSEP’s administration of the grants as grantee and the distribution of grant funds directly to the Sheriff of East Baton Rouge Parish,” Holden wrote in the letter.
Holden has argued GOHSEP’s requirement that the sheriff review and sign off on the federal Homeland Security grants essentially gives the sheriff veto power over how Homeland Security funds are spent.
Yet to be resolved is the status of two other federal Homeland Security grants, totaling $2.9 million, under the separate Urban Areas Securities Initiative program for fiscal years 2009 and 2010.
Those grants also require a 25 percent share be used for law enforcement purposes, as determined by a law enforcement committee headed by the sheriff.
GOHSEP also had given Holden a deadline of Monday to provide it with documentation verifying “that local law enforcement has been included in the 2009 and 2010 Urban Areas Security Initiative grant funding process.”
GOHSEP Deputy Director Clay Rives said Holden’s chief administrative officer, John Carpenter, advised him in a telephone call Monday that the administration believes it is in compliance because a representative of the Sheriff’s Office participated in law enforcement subcommittee meetings on the UASI grants.
“They feel that they are in compliance but have not turned in an application with the sheriff’s signature to date,” Rives said.
Absent the sheriff’s review and signature, Rives said, GOHSEP intends to take over administering the UASI grants as it has done with the other two grants.
“We’re hopeful they will comply,” Rives said.
The reason for having the sheriff, mayor and homeland security director of each parish review and sign off on the grants is to make sure “everybody is working together and there is no duplication of efforts,” Rives said
He said it appears from an initial review that everything in the spending plan the law enforcement group submitted last week for its 25 percent share is eligible for grant funding.
Rives said the office will be reviewing the city-parish’s spending plan for the other 75 percent this week.
“As long as it meets grant guidelines, we’re going to try to expedite this so we can unfreeze the funding and the parish can start spending accordingly,” Rives said.