The $125,000 originally intended for LSU's work on the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination program would only have been needed if the U.S. Department of Justice agreed to extend the grant for the anti-gang initiative, said a city-parish official in a recent email exchange.
As questions have risen about the administration of the BRAVE grant by the city-parish, one question loomed over the others: what happened to the $125,000 that Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome's administration proposed giving to LSU several months ago. Another concern has been a lack of information about why the federal government declined in July to extend the grant.
Email exchanges by city-parish Assistant Chief Administrative Officer James Gilmore reviewed by The Advocate on Wednesday provided information on both issues.
In February, Broome's office was set to ask the Metro Council to approve a $125,000 contract that would have increased LSU's BRAVE funding to $806,233 "to coordinate all research activities for the BRAVE Program under the U.S. Office of Justice Programs Community-Based Violence Prevention and Demonstration Grant."
A recent annual report about the BRAVE program explains one of LSU's roles was to calculate a score that determines whether people tend to commit crimes with certain groups of others, though not necessarily a named gang — for example, three people whose names keep showing up together in both violent crime reports and narcotics reports.
Gilmore told council members in February that he needed more time to understand how the funding worked and once he did, he would return with a proposal for giving LSU the $125,000. Broome reassured council members that she had a "complete commitment to the BRAVE program."
For the next several months, the pot of money for LSU went unmentioned publicly by both Broome's office and the Metro Council until July 27, which is when Broome announced she was severing a recent BRAVE contract with Arthur "Silky Slim" Reed. Broome said she was disappointed after Reed told those at a Metro Council meeting that justice came to Baton Rouge when a gunman shot and killed three law enforcement officers last summer. He was referring to a shooting in July 2016 by Gavin Long of Kansas City, Missouri, in which three local officers were killed and three others were wounded.
A July 28 email exchange between Gilmore and Metro Councilman Dwight Hudson explains more about what happened to the proposal to give LSU a $125,000 BRAVE contract. Both confirmed the authenticity of the emails on Wednesday.
Hudson asked whether the LSU proposal would be reintroduced, whether any changes were being made to the LSU contract, whether the money was being used for another purpose and what caused the delay in the item returning to the Metro Council.
Gilmore wrote that he asked for the BRAVE contract to be deleted from the Metro Council agenda because the LSU research team had a total budget of $681,233 with expenditures at $645,145. Given the $36,088 balance, Gilmore said, he was not sure how the $125,000 would be paid with seven months left in the grant.
"After speaking with LSU, I was informed the $125,000 would be needed if the grant were to be extended," Gilmore wrote. "Therefore, in the extension request to the feds we included that amount (reprogramming dollars in other categories where money had not been spent) for LSU. The extension request was denied, and therefore the item was never brought back to the Council."
The federal government announced July 19 that it was pulling the plug on the city-parish's BRAVE grant money by Sept. 18, rejecting a request from the city-parish to carry forward hundreds of thousands of unused grant dollars the city-parish had not spent.
Asked Wednesday about the email, Gilmore said the city-parish did not use money earmarked from LSU's balance for any other contracts, despite reports that the money originally intended for LSU was going to new contractors instead.
"It’s unfortunate our request for an extension, which includes their request for $125,000 was denied," Gilmore said Wednesday. "I am a graduate of LSU and respect the work this research center has done over the years."
Officials from LSU associated with the BRAVE program did not return messages Wednesday.
In a July 31 letter asking the Louisiana Legislative Auditor to review the administration of the BRAVE program, Louisiana Law Enforcement political action committee Executive Director Chris Stewart mentioned the money for LSU as well. Stewart wrote that Broome "canceled a contract with LSU," which, he said, was a particularly important aspect of the program. Stewart accused Broome of diverting funds to activities outside of the BRAVE program like arts camps, poetry workshops and more.
However, the original BRAVE grant from 2012 does outline those sorts of community engagement projects as part of the initiative to reduce crime.
In addition, The Advocate reviewed another email Wednesday which provided more information about the Department of Justice's decision not to extend the BRAVE grant despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars the city-parish hoped to move forward.
Carmen Santiago Roberts, the program manager for the U.S. Department Of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, outlined four reasons why the Department of Justice refused to approve an extension of the grant in a July 24 email.
She pointed out that the department only allows one extension per 12 months and that Baton Rouge did not meet the justification for another one, as she said the city-parish had already received two prior extensions.
An analysis from her office of the grant's performance found "substantial deficiencies in the management of this grant" based on a lack of programming and the unused money, Roberts said. The city-parish also did not provide reports on the program by deadlines, and when they finally arrived, the reports included neither enough data nor narrative information about how successful the implementation of BRAVE was.
Finally, Roberts wrote that the city-parish failed to show that the services proposed in its 2012 application for the BRAVE grant were actually being provided, and the city-parish was not showing that the number of youth mentioned in its grant were actually being reached.
On Wednesday, Gilmore pinned the blame for the problems Roberts listed on mismanagement from the previous administration who worked on the grant under former Mayor-President Kip Holden.
Gilmore said it's disappointing that Broome's office is under attack for its administration of the BRAVE grant. He said the goal — after the federal government denied the request to carry forward the remaining grant money past the September deadline — was to use the money left on after school and summer programs, given that crime tends to spike in the summer.
On Tuesday, Broome's office suspended all contracts issued for BRAVE between mid-June and mid-July while her office conducts a review of the program's contracts, projects and funding. Broome said they should have a status update by August 7.