The Advocate unfairly maligned the reputation of Maury Drummond, a man who has devoted most of his life to maintaining the USS Kidd. Drummond devoted 22 years of tireless and honorable service to the USS Kidd at zero cost to the taxpayer.

Nonetheless, the state Legislative Auditor’s Office “flagged” Mr. Drummond for supposedly inadequate record keeping, questionable purchases and a $300,000 debt to the Louisiana Office of Risk Management for unpaid insurance premiums.

What the LAO failed to report is that everybody was aware of the debt but realized the USS Kidd Commission, with its modest self-generated revenues, simply could not keep up with the climbing premiums. And while the commission paid as much as it could every year ($45,000 to $50,000 to pay down the debt) it struggled to catch up. The ORM was fully aware of the situation and never canceled the insurance or rejected any claims. Why didn’t the LAO consider this?

Regarding the allegations of “lack of management oversight and proper documentation for spending,” of the 145 items examined in the audit, 74 purportedly lacked “proper support to provide assurance that the expenditure was a legitimate business expense.” One of these dastardly items was a gift card that Mr. Drummond provided to an employee of the month. There were plenty other such items allegedly lacking “proper support.” This would be comical if it were not so unfair to Mr. Drummond.

Mr. Drummond has stated that he could have provided documentation for every single issue raised in the “investigation” upon request. Amazingly, he was never contacted or questioned by the LAO or the state Inspector General during their “investigation.”

Is this how public agencies should conduct their investigations? It is an embarrassment. What happened to due process of law and a fair investigation?

Perhaps if the LAO and the Inspector General’s Office had some idea how hard it is to create lasting monuments to valuable things without burdening the taxpayers, they would have been more careful with an honorable man’s legacy. Perhaps they would have taken the time to interview Mr. Drummond before completing their investigation and publishing their findings in The Advocate.

At his retirement ceremony last December, Drummond was awarded the Meritorious Service award by the commission, the highest honor that can be given to a member. Drummond said the highlight of his tenure was “hosting the local school children at the museum and ship and especially the establishment of the museum’s Hall of Honor.” Maury Drummond has a special place in that hall, unlike those who have cheaply chosen to malign him.

J. Christopher Alexander Sr.

attorney

Baton Rouge