Lafayette city-parish official Marcus Bruno has paid off a controversial, federally funded personal business loan he received in 2016, less than one year after Mayor-President Joel Robideaux took office with Bruno serving as Robideaux’s governmental affairs assistant.
Bruno and his wife, Traci Bruno, secured a new private loan this month for $35,000 with a mortgage on their residence, which they had previously used to back a loan in the same amount from the nonprofit Lafayette Neighborhoods’ Economic Development Corp. The mortgage document indicates the Lafayette Neighborhoods’ mortgage will be canceled, and the organization’s chairman, Regis Allison, confirmed that Bruno had paid off the remaining balance.
“We are happy to get our money back,” Allison said on Monday afternoon.
The 10-year nonprofit loan was funded with federal grant money the city-parish government steered to it before Robideaux took office, and Bruno subsequently helped the nonprofit obtain additional grant money.
Early repayment is one recommendation the city-parish’s community development department suggested in April after finding that Bruno’s company, LA Consultants, failed to meet job creation targets or provide documentation for how the money was used. The department suggested foreclosure on the Brunos’ home or modified loan terms as alternatives.
The organization decided to hold off on any action until the Department of Housing and Urban Development completes its own review, which is pending.
HUD staffers have asked for copies of the city-parish’s conflict of interest policies as part of their review, but the scope and time frame for completion are not clear.
An update on the HUD review was scheduled on the June 18 City-Parish Council meeting agenda, but the director of the community development department, Shanea Nelson, requested that council members not discuss the situation shortly before the meeting started.
After Councilman Jay Castille refused to cancel the agenda item, Nelson told council members she had made the request at Robideaux’s direction.
Bruno did not return a call on Monday.