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Taxpayers foot bill for mayor's $24K security detail despite no threats on record

9 months 1 day 22 hours ago Thursday, December 17 2020 Dec 17, 2020 December 17, 2020 2:48 PM December 17, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

NEW ROADS- The Mayor of New Roads said he needs a police officer with him at all times due to safety concerns and threats that have been made on his life.

But, the WBRZ Investigative Unit found the New Roads Police Department had no threats reported against Mayor Cornell Dukes.

The WBRZ Investigative Unit found taxpayers shelled out at least $24,000 over a year's time for one officer to be with the mayor. That officer, Byron Lewis worked more than 1,300 hours based on our calculations from timesheets the WBRZ Investigative Unit received through a public records request.

Dukes is an anomaly, as he's the only Mayor in a small city that uses a security detail.

"This is a petty conversation that doesn't rise to the occasion of having to do an interview," Dukes said.

He claimed he's filed reports about death threats and physical harm to his life, but would not say when or which agency they're filed with.

The WBRZ Investigative Unit did the following research.

CITY                                               POPULATION                                                 MAYOR

New Roads                                        4,553                                     Cornell Dukes... uses detail.

Port Allen                                          4,963                                     Richard Lee said he has never used a detail.

Denham Springs                             10,282                                   Gerard Landry said he has never used a detail.

Zachary                                           16,723                                    David Amrhein said he has never used a detail.

Gonzales                                         10,677                                    Barney Arceneaux said he has never used a detail.

Central                                            28,864                                    David Barrow said he has never used a detail.

Plaquemine                                     6,621                                      Ed Reeves said he has never used a detail.

Multiple mayors in cities larger than New Roads called the situation that we told them about ridiculous. In addition to that, multiple sources told the WBRZ Investigative Unit the detail is not justified.

Wednesday, New Roads Police Chief Kevin McDonald provided the WBRZ Investigative Unit with a file number of a complaint that Mayor Dukes filed last year in East Baton Rouge Parish.

We checked. Records show that report involves a dispute between Duke, his ex-girlfriend and another female.

Kirk 'Clipper' White has been a sitting councilman since 1999. He said he has never seen a mayor use a detail like Dukes.

"I was aware to some extent that the mayor had a driver on occasion, but I was not aware to what extent until you brought it to my attention," White said.

What Dukes is doing is not illegal, but it could cause problems if auditors come looking. The Louisiana Constitution mandates that public money must be used in a reasonable manner.

White said there has been a lot of economic development in New Roads as of late, but he could not say that's a result of the police detail.

"We've got a lot of new and exciting things happening in New Roads. So, from that standpoint, I don't think our population has increased a whole lot," White said. "But economic development is on the rise I would say."

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