Amid Nakamoto investigation, Council on Aging reviews travel policy
BATON ROUGE – Amid a Chris Nakamoto investigation for the WBRZ News 2 Investigative Unit, the EBR Council on Aging revealed it's changing its policies and procedures dealing with travel policies for its staff.
Nakamoto and the WBRZ Investigative Unit filed a public records request – essentially, a formal request to review public documents held by an organization – related to travel expenses to various out-of-state locations and cruises paid for by the Council on Aging or paid through the agency. The request to review records related to trips was sent May 17 and asked to see records for trips and cruises since January 2015.
The agency replied it would supply documents but as of this post had not provided the requested information. State law does not require immediate access, but requires agencies respond to a request and provide information in a few days.
Most recently, Nakamoto's team highlighted a $12,000 trip to a convention in Chicago. Five people attended on behalf of the EBR Council on Aging. The head of a nearby council on aging questioned the spending habits and argued money could have been better spent on services for senior citizens. Last year, the EBR Council on Aging said it had an extensive waiting list for seniors looking for services.
In a news release Thursday, the agency announced it was creating more specific guidelines for travel.
“...attention has been called to the manner that the EBRCOA conducts senior trips, cultural outings, and excursions, particularly out of state and cruises,” the agency wrote in its news release. The agency said it will meet with the Governor's Office of Elderly Affairs to implement better policies soon. Until a meeting is held and issues are resolved, the Council on Aging said it is suspending travel arrangements.
“Until this agency receives definitive guidelines and policies, we will halt all trips with the exception of day trips to programs and luncheons,” the head of the agency's governing board, Jennifer Moisant, said in a prepared statement.
In a separate statement Wednesday, Moisant revealed she and the board overseeing the Council on Aging are trying to make adjustments in areas where she said there have been mistakes. Click HERE to read more.
WBRZ has requested interviews with Moisant, who was recently elected to the board. Moisant said she will provide an on-camera interview once she has reviewed the situations and hopes to be able to shed light on what has gone wrong and how the board plans to provide more transparency.
The Council on Aging has found itself at the center of controversy since a property tax narrowly passed funding its operations last year.