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Amid controversy over who got BRAVE grants, calls made for state auditor to probe mayor's deals

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BATON ROUGE – There are at least two requests for a state investigation into Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome's handling of the BRAVE grant program. Those in charge of the BRAVE program today said they had no idea the contracts her office doled out existed.

Monday afternoon, the newly-formed Louisiana Law Enforcement PAC asked the legislative auditor to review grant funding for the BRAVE program since the mayor's administration took over at the first of the year.

Finance records indicate the PAC was created earlier in 2017 and Jeff Leduff was listed as chairperson. A letter asking for an investigation into the grant program was signed, though, by Chris Stewart, the Executive Director.

“...funds allocated for the BRAVE program have been redirected to contract with local individuals to provide art camps, flag football games, poetry workshops, events to engage young girls, transportation and other services.

“… While these activities may be of value to at-risk youth, they do not appear to be in line with the BRAVE grant guidelines and mission,” Stewart wrote.

Not long after the request from Stewart, Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso called for a similar inquiry by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. Amoroso told WBRZ, it appears contracts granted to people after Broome took office appear to be political favors.

"It appears to me its political favors being given out by the Mayor's office," Amoroso said.

This weekend, Amoroso shared research he tallied from public information posted online with the Louisiana political blog The Hayride. Amoroso later told WBRZ, he found contracts awarded to people to conduct work as part of BRAVE through the mayor's office were issued for values under that don't require metro council approval. Click here to read Amoroso's full request letter for an investigation to be conducted. 

That research included 30 plus contracts that were classified as professional service contracts. Among some of the questionable ones:

*$17,500 contract to Cleve Dunn Jr. who happened to be on Weston Broome's Transition Team. That contract was for transportation for BRAVE participants including appearances, medical and social service appointments.

*$9,500 contract to Isaiah Marshall. Marshall was the chairman of the Capital Area Transit System and resigned in 2013 over lost money and theft under his leadership. His contract was to plan and organize a network of teams and players to hose two community sporting events for youth and adults targeting those in 70805 and 70802.

District Attorney Hillar Moore said BRAVE has been his life for the past four years.

"We're concerned at this piont," Moore said. "Mainly I had not seen contracts, and do not know what they were for, what they will do, and how data would be collected to make sure work was being done...and if it was going to have a positive effect."

Through a statement, the mayor said she will evaluate all contracts and expects to make a public announcement in a week.

The mayor said: "I think public interest is extremely important, and I support public engagement and transparency. I or the chief administrative officer will continue to do what I stated last week, which is to review every contract that comes through the Office of the Mayor-President to ensure quality, cost-effective services for the people of East Baton Rouge Parish. In addition, I have directed my administration to prepare a comprehensive report related to BRAVE contracts, projects and funding. We will provide a status report to the media no later than Monday, August 7." 

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Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz

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