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Leaders upset over mayor missing meeting

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BATON ROUGE- Some elected officials who are members of a special group managing the police body camera roll-out for Baton Rouge officers are frustrated with the mayor over what they perceive is a lack of earnestness.

The city is dealing with the possibility of forfeiting more than $750,000 in federal grant money to pay for the cameras since the cameras were purchased before the grant was awarded. The city applied for the grant in early 2017, spending was approved and the cameras ordered between April and the summer but the grant wasn't awarded until October. Grant managers took issue with the timeline and have warned since the cameras were already purchased, the money may need to be returned.

The grant issue was the topic of the meeting Tuesday, which the mayor did not attend. Instead, those frustrated with the situation said after a text message, Chief Administrative Officer Darryl Gissel arrive – and 30 minutes late.

"I was concerned," State Representative and Chairwoman of the Body Camera Committee, C. Denise Marcelle said. "Certainly we would have liked someone from her office to appear, but even when he (Gissel) got there, he didn't have any information. He did say the mayor spoke to Congressman Graves, but didn't have any information on that conversation."

The cameras cost the city about $2.5 million.

"From the information we gathered (Tuesday), we will not get the money from the grant," Marcelle said. "Not for body cameras because they will not allow us to pay ourselves back for something we already paid for."

Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso agrees with Marcelle and believes the mayor's absence was troubling.

"It had an appearance of lacking of caring about this," Amoroso said.

Amoroso and Marcelle said they hoped to be able to talk to the mayor and especially Amoroso, who is tasked with approving city spending as a councilman, wanted an explanation.

"We wanted to establish a timeline and find out why certain actions were taken...and Mr. Gissel said it was an executive decision she made," Amoroso said.

"Just that she (Mayor Broome) would communicate with myself and the body camera committee," Marcelle said. "Maybe she wants to schedule a meeting to meet with us, and we will certainly show up."

Late Wednesday, Mayor Broome released the following statement:

"One of the first requests that I received when I assumed office was to move forward with the purchase of the body cameras after the pilot program had ended.

I made that a priority because I knew it would help close the gap between the police department and the citizens of our community. There was no guarantee of grant funding at the time we chose to move forward in purchasing the cameras. I have no regret that my administration was proactive in purchasing the cameras. I take all requests for meetings seriously; however, I sometimes have scheduling conflicts. That is why I immediately responded to the body camera meeting request on December 5 when asked to attend by indicating that Darryl Gissel, my chief administrative officer, and Interim BRPD Chief Jonny Dunnam would be in attendance at the meeting. Both were in fact present.

I will continue to pursue the possibility of using the recent grant award for other costs connected to the implementation of the body-worn cameras." 


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