Investigative Unit: TV show to save USS Kidd finances
BATON ROUGE - For the time being, the USS Kidd's dire financial crisis looks like it will be solved thanks to a television show.
The ship is still trying to recover from losing $90,000 dollars last year, which was revealed by a state audit Monday. The financial situation was so bleak executive director Alex Juan informed ship employees last week of a furlough-layoff program she might implement.
"We are trying to get better control of our finances and one thing we had sort of started was a furlough-layoff contingency plan, worst case scenario what would happen if things did not change," Juan said.
Juan believed if things did not change within the week the ship would have to close down during the slower summer period to meet payroll demands later on in the year.
"I just wanted us all to be prepared. That includes myself as well. Obviously, I'd be laid off as well," Juan said. "So we have been working around the clock to make sure that didn't happen and luckily it didn't."
Juan and her employee's hard work paid off Wednesday when a major television production signed a permit with the Baton Rouge Film Commission to shoot an episode at the Kidd. The production company has agreed to pay the Kidd "several thousands of dollars", according to Juan.
"We can't get into the contract details, but it's certainly more than it takes to keep the ship open on a daily basis," she said.
The production company sought the Kidd out because of its unique location, Juan said. The ship and the gift shop will be closed to the public Monday through Friday next week for filming. Crews will shoot most of the episode on the ship and use the gift shop to house production workers.
"It lends itself well to that type of television series. So if this ends up being a good fit for them and for us, this could potentially be an additional source of income for us," Juan said.
Juan also said a $15,000 donation from the ship's foundation, which raises money for the ship, is helping them stay afloat.
"It was just we needed to get through this one tight moment and with them being on board, that's fantastic," Juan said.
Juan said the reasons the ship was running out of money for this fiscal year was because the ship had to make up for last year's loss and unexpected purchases, such as air condition repairs for the gift shop and ship.
Last September, News 2's Investigative Unit first uncovered the problems and questionable spending surrounding the ship. The Legislative Auditor's office released the ship's 2013 audit Monday, giving a negative opinion because key accounting records and supporting documents were not available for the 2013 fiscal year. The report revealed the Kidd's former executive director Maury Drummond continued to ignore auditors concerns even after being told to change his management practices. Out of 145 expenses sampled in the 2013 audit, 74 lacked supporting documentation, and one was a personal expense item for an employee, according to auditors.
The USS Kidd also owes more than $300,000 to the Office of Risk Management for unpaid insurance premiums.
The Office of Inspector General is reviewing financial activities of the last three years and into Drummond's questionable spending. The report is expected to be done within the year.
Juan said the ship is cutting back in all areas to meet financial demands and are paying $5,000 each month to ORM.