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EBR changes policies after WBRZ Investigation

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BATON ROUGE - City-parish officials made several policy changes as a result of a WBRZ investigation which discovered the executive director of the Alcohol Beverage Control Office was working a second day job.

The WBRZ Investigative Unit found that Chris Cranford, who has an administrative job with ABC, routinely parked his city-issued unit outside Boudreaux's Banquet Hall off Government Street to do outside work every Wednesday.

When we approached Cranford at his second job, he told Chief Investigator Chris Nakamoto he was working an extra duty detail. Sources told WBRZ Cranford would leave at the same time each Wednesday to work extra duty, while he was also working his city-parish job.

"I take vacation," Cranford told News 2.

We asked if he uses vacation every Wednesday.

"Yes," Cranford responded. "Every Wednesday, I do."

However, time sheets for Cranford which were obtained by the Investigative Unit contradict those statements. The documents from May, June, July and August of this year show at no time on a Wednesday did Chris Cranford use vacation hours. The time sheets also indicated no one was signing off on Cranford's hours. It wasn't until former parish attorney Mary Roper left office that Cranford's time sheets began getting some oversight.

The ABC Office was created nearly 30 years ago to regulate alcohol related issues in East Baton Rouge Parish. The Board licenses and regulates all businesses serving and selling alcohol. The agency operates under the umbrella of the Parish Attorney, and the Metro Council. Metro Councilman Chandler Loupe weighed in on what the Investigative Unit found.

"A big push of why I wanted change in the parish attorney's office is if you're paid full time you need to work full time," Loupe said.

During our investigation, an email was asent out by Leigh Anne Batson, who is the acting parish attorney. Part of it states, "...It has been brought to my attention that Channel 2 has been doing an investigation of extra duty details by the ABC staff. In order to avoid any appearance of impropriety officers cannot use an unmarked City-Parish Vehicle while working extra duty...and (they) can't work extra duty at any establishment which receives a permit from the ABC office..."

"There would be a conflict there if the venue being regulated by the ABC Board were also being served by an agent of the ABC Board in a law enforcement capacity," said Metro Councilman John Delgado.

This means that the extra duty at Boudreaux's for ABC Officers has come to an end.

"It's regrettable that they did not have a policy in place that would eliminate the appearance of impropriety," Delgado said.

The questions raised about Cranford's statements he used vacation time to work the extra job are still unanswered. Council members believe there needs to be more accountability starting from the top.

"I think Chris will be dealt with in-house, meaning the parish attorney will handle any disciplinary action," Loupe said.

Despite the time sheet discrepancies, Batson said in an email, "I have reviewed their leave records personally, and no extra duty was performed while on City-Parish duty." However, the time sheets do not reflect what specific times of the day the agents worked. Instead, the documents the Investigative Unit obtained simply show how many hours they worked.

We requested an interview with Leigh Anne Batson who is the Interim Parish Attorney, which she declined.

News 2 has learned during our investigation that locks on office doors and filing cabinets inside the ABC office were also changed, but it's unclear why. With these policy changes, the parish ABC Office now falls in line with the state's Alcohol Tobacco Control Office.

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