News 2 Investigates: Concerns surround U.S.S. KIDD finances and records
BATON ROUGE - On the heels of a state audit citing mismanagement, the News 2 Investigative Unit has uncovered potential misuse of taxpayer dollars by those who run the U.S.S. Kidd.
A 2011 legislative audit cited the ship's executive director, Maury Drummond, for not keeping receipts for credit card purchases and not getting proper approval for reimbursements even though money was reimbursed to employees. A 2012 audit released Monday showed that's not getting fixed.
The Louisiana War Memorial Commission, which is comprised of 15 commissioners, oversees the Kidd's tourism operations and is supposed to give approval to the ship's spending.
The U.S.S. Kidd foundation works closely with the ship, but the two entities remain separate.
"The foundation is suppose to be the fundraising arm of the commission," Drummond said.
The Kidd is budgeted to spend more than $819,000; which comes from donations, admission sales, gift shop retail sales and $229,000 from the taxpayers in the city of Baton Rouge.
"With that grant, we put it in the operations account," Drummond said.
It's a paid trip to a convention in Key West, Florida, out of that operations account that's raised questions with commissioners.
"No one on the commission approved the trip, and no one else was given the opportunity to go," La. Naval War Commissioner Larry Jones said.
In September 2012, foundation member Janet Broussard and her husband, who has no affiliation with the Kidd, went to a War Memorial Convention in Key West on the commission's tab.
Drummond admits no one from the commission has ever gone on a commission paid trip before Broussard.
"Simple answer is I picked her," Drummond said. "A lot of people couldn't take off. Just couldn't take off and to be honest with you, that's who I wanted to go. [I] felt like I had the authority to let her go because it's never been an issue."
But it was an issue, according to Jones.
"If it was ok to do that, I don't know why Maury got so upset about it when he was confronted. And then all of the sudden, in my opinion, [he] lost his temper a little bit. But, he offered to pay for it. And that tells me, maybe even he knew that wasn't right," Jones said.
Drummond did not attend the convention in Key West. But on July 17, 2012, Drummond's credit card shows a payment for airfare for himself, his wife and the Broussards.
Drummond said he allowed the Broussards to go in his place when he became ill.
The trip costs the commission more than $2900. Commissioners were told about the trip months after it happened, Jones said.
"The commissioners are just not aware of those kinds of things," Jones said. "There isn't enough information in my opinion shared with the commissioners in advanced planning to things like that."
"I could have gone. Someone else could have gone. Yes, it could have happened that way, but the selection was made with Miss Broussard," commission chair Joe Jenkins said.
Janet Broussard and her husband declined an on-camera interview. But Janet Broussard did tell News 2's Investigative Unit by phone that Drummond said commission approval was given prior to the trip taking place.
Broussard said she offered to pay but Drummond said it wasn't necessary. She said she returned from the trip and gave Drummond a verbal report.
"He knows the program. He knows the Kidd. He knows war memorials around the country. But I feel like he's gone unchecked for way too many years," Jones said.
Drummond stands by his decision allowing Janet Broussard to go. But he now admits paying for her husband was a conflict.
"Could have been a very bad decision that's on me," Drummond said.
News 2 also uncovered just a few of the Kidd's reimbursement checks were backed by receipts, including purchases made at the Belle of Baton Rouge Casino for $865 and $1000 made at Hollywood Casino.
"When you hold positions of trust and you hold the purses for the government, from the state and the operation of the USS KIDD, common sense tells you, you have to have a receipts," Jones said.
Jenkins was unaware reimbursements were not backed by receipts.
"There was no reason not to keep them. We've just either misplaced them or can't locate them," Drummond said.
"That can happen. However, that's why we say we need to put things in place to make sure that we can counter that so we can make sure we are more accountable to the people whose money we receive," Jenkins said.
Unrelated to any investigation, Drummond plans to retire in November.
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