Mayor-President Joel Robideaux’s administration last month found improprieties in the provision of a federally funded business loan to senior aide Marcus Bruno, findings that Robideaux did not publicly disclose after staunchly defending Bruno and the loan.
The Advocate reported in February that Bruno obtained a $35,000 business loan from a fund that a nonprofit organization administers with federal grant money steered to it by city-parish government. Bruno then played a key role in helping the nonprofit, Lafayette Neighborhoods’ Economic Development Corp., secure additional grant money. He also helped select new board members and consulted on a revisions to its bylaws.
City-parish staffers in the community development department then found that Bruno’s loan application and Lafayette Neighborhoods’ management of the loan file likely run afoul of Dept. of Housing and Urban Development regulations, according to a March 11 report. The internal review, which was first reported by The Current, was to determine if the loan complies with HUD’s objectives for the Community Development Block Grant program.
Bruno claimed on the loan application that the money would help retain a minimum of two full-time employees, per HUD requirements, the review found. But his business, LA Consultants, only had one employee at the time — Bruno’s wife and loan co-applicant, Traci Bruno.
Bruno’s loan file shows no documentation of any job creation or retention, which amounts to an “event of default,” according to the review. If Bruno is unable to prove LA Consultants added or created jobs, Lafayette Neighborhoods should give him more time to do so, for Bruno to repay on an accelerated schedule or foreclose on his house, which he put up as a collateral, according to the review.
Additionally, Marcus Bruno and Traci Bruno claimed without providing documentation that their household of four is low to moderate income. The review notes income limit to meet that definition for household of that size was $53,100 in 2016. It does not mention that Bruno’s salary as Robideaux’s governmental affairs assistant was $85,000.
The loan application also did not include a denial letter from a bank or other conventional lender, which Lafayette Neighborhoods requires for participation in the loan program, according to the review. Lafayette Neighborhoods has since failed to document how Bruno spent the money, the review states.
The administration released a separate legal review finding Bruno did not violate any regulations pertaining to conflicts of interest a little more than a week after the initial news report. Robideaux, who refused numerous requests for interviews and comments about the loan, claimed the article distorted facts. He later told reporters the legal review showed that “everything that was required was done.”
“It was all above board. It meets all the regulations, all the rules,” Robideaux said.
Robideaux did not immediately respond to a query on Monday afternoon. Bruno and Lafayette Neighborhoods chairman Regis Allison did not return calls.
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