Former Louisiana Naval War Memorial Commission director Maury Drummond spent thousands of public dollars while leading the office to pay for meals and travel in violation of state law, according to a three-year review of his expenses by the Inspector General’s Office released Friday.
Despite the multiple findings of misspent public funds, the Inspector General’s Office says it’s not pursuing an arrest of Drummond.
“We will provide the District Attorney’s Office with a copy of the report, but we are not actively seeking an arrest warrant due to the age and poor health of Mr. Drummond,” said Greg Phares, chief investigator with the Office of the Inspector General.
District Attorney Hillar Moore III said in an email that he has reviewed the report and will speak with commission members but added, “I do not anticipate any action by my office.”
Drummond’s attorneys responded in the report that while there may have been errors in record keeping, Drummond was not personally profiting from any of the expenditures. It further blamed some of the recording errors on Drummond’s health over the years.
“Mr. Drummond’s health deteriorated in 2011 when he had knee replacement surgery. Not long after, he developed heart problems,” attorneys John DiGiulio and James Manasseh said in a response that was included in the report. “He has been bed ridden and prescribed serious medication for pain and his heart and back ailments for several years.”
The Inspector General’s Office reviewed expenses from Jan. 1, 2011, through Dec. 13, 2013, of the commission charged with overseeing the Louisiana Naval War Memorial and museum, which includes the USS Kidd.
Among its findings, the office found that Drummond spent $4,860 over the three-year period writing checks from the commission’s operations and foundation accounts directly to himself and to his personal credit card provider.
He also spent $1,179 in public funds to pay for his wife to accompany him on trips to conferences. But state law does not allow for public funds to be used to reimburse costs for family members.
The report also found Drummond was reimbursed $1,671 for travel-related expenses over what he was entitled to receive under state guidelines and charged $3,547 to the commission’s credit card for meals while not traveling. He did not submit receipts for those meals and no public purpose was identified, the report found.
The credit card was charged at local restaurants such as Shucks, Juban’s, TJ Ribs and Acme Oyster House.
He also donated $2,295 in commission dollars to charities, which constituted a violation of state law. The donations were listed as office supply expenditures in the commission’s bookkeeping, the report said.
DiGiulio, in his response, said meals and travel expenses were incurred “in each and every instance to promote the commission and its work.”
Drummond contends all credit card expenditures were related to the commission and notes that his wife, who attended conferences with him on the public dime, was a longtime volunteer for the commission who “marketed, coordinated and supervised” various programs and activities.
The report echoes many of the issues first flagged last year in a legislative auditor’s report, which took issue with the agency’s history of financial mismanagement under Drummond. Drummond denied those allegations last year.
Drummond, a former LSU basketball star and beloved fixture of the community, oversaw the memorial and museum for 22 years. He retired in 2013, citing health concerns, and was honored with the meritorious service award by the commission at a ceremony praising his dedication.
Drummond was succeeded by Alex Juan, who previously worked as his administrative assistant. Juan had served as a captain and public affairs officer with the 159th Fighter Wing of the Louisiana Air National Guard.
The inspector general’s report had no recommendations, Phares said, because his office believes the commission already has implemented a plan, under Juan’s direction, to actively correct the issues.
“The current management of the USS Kidd has, in our opinion, made very significant progress in correcting the issues we identified,” Inspector General Stephen Street said in a statement. “The Kidd is important to the Baton Rouge community. We wish it well going forward.”
Juan declined to comment on the report, except to say she’s confident the issues identified in the report regarding business operations have been addressed.
The commission has confronted financial issues in the past couple of years, with Juan last year forced to cancel the annual Baton Rouge tradition of the mock aerial attack on the Fourth of July.
For the past few decades, thousands of locals have flocked to the USS Kidd on July 4 for patriotic festivities, including Air Raid Baton Rouge, an air demonstration in which low-flying fighter planes “attack” the ship as the ship fires rounds to defend itself.
Juan said the commission is still unable to revive the Air Raid tradition this year.
“Numerous factors have contributed to this decision, including changes in safety regulations, increasing cost of aviation fuel, the possibility of explosives in the water damaging a National Historic Landmark and, of course, the safe handling of explosives near a crowd of 50,000-plus of the USS Kidd Fourth of July Spectacular attendees,” she said.
But Juan said there will be no shortage of planned family-friendly activities for the holiday.
“I think folks are going to be pleasantly surprised to see what we have planned for this year, especially that we have a greater variety of music that will have everyone dancing,” Juan said.
The festivities will include a flag demonstration, all-day vendor booths, a pie-baking contest, a hot-dog-eating contest and several bands, including Rosie and the Swingin’ Riveters and ’80s cover band Werewolf.
And yes — there will be fireworks.
This year, the Kidd is restoring the ability to view the fireworks from the ship, a feature that also was cut last year. There will be 300 tickets sold for $15 each.