U.S. Sen. John Kennedy has joined the chorus of people calling for investigations into City Hall's handling of the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination anti-gang initiative.
Kennedy wrote a letter Thursday to Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome expressing his deep concern over recent reports about problems with the administration of the BRAVE program.
The senator specifically takes issue with the $9,800 contract that had been awarded to activist Arthur "Silky Slim" Reed that Broome yanked after Reed said, in part, at a July 26 Metro Council meeting that "justice came when Gavin Long came" — in reference to the man who ambushed and killed three Baton Rouge law enforcement officers last summer.
Kennedy also questioned a $125,000 contract originally intended for LSU's data work on the anti-gang program.
Broome's office put the brakes on asking the Metro Council to approve the $125,000 contract in February, saying they would bring it back after they did more research on how the funding would work. In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Justice announced in July it was rejecting a request from the city-parish to carry forward hundreds of thousands of dollars that Baton Rouge left unspent in the BRAVE program.
City-parish Assistant Chief Administrative Officer James Gilmore said in recent email exchanges that the $125,000 would have been awarded to LSU only had the BRAVE contract been extended. LSU still had not confirmed by Thursday whether Gilmore's version of events matches theirs.
The $125,000 originally intended for LSU's work on the Baton Rouge Area Violence Elimination…
"These actions call into question the tactics your administration is using to fight the ever-increasing violent crime rate in Baton Rouge," Kennedy wrote.
The original BRAVE grant from 2012 outlines activities like arts programs, sports teams and community events as ways to engage at-risk youth and give them outlets to turn away from crime. But Kennedy deemed using the funding for activities along those lines "questionable services," specifically saying he is concerned about a "seemingly blatant waste of our federal tax dollars."
He wrote that earlier this summer he discussed with Department of Justice officials that the BRAVE money was not being spent "directly on law enforcement needs." He also asked that Broome allocate any leftover BRAVE money to law enforcement.
Similar concerns were raised earlier this week when the Louisiana Law Enforcement political action committee and Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso both sent letters to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor asking for a review of the administration of BRAVE. Kennedy copied the legislative auditor on his letter to Broome as well.
He asked Broome to take immediate action to ensure BRAVE funds are not misused in the future, and asked Broome to provide the public with a list of BRAVE-related contracts and transactions paid for with federal money. Specifically, Kennedy asked that Broome enumerate the selection criteria for each contractor and the metrics used to evaluate them.
Earlier this week, Broome suspended all BRAVE contracts issued between mid-June and mid-July pending a review from her office. She said she expects to deliver a status update on the review by Aug. 7.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome's office confirmed Tuesday she is suspending all contra…