“One potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four..” Most of us are familiar with this popular counting-out rhyme where children start with one potato (or any object) and progressively builds up helping children learn how to count. The same is true for spending in government. It always starts with one potato (or car), then two, then three.
That is what we have uncovered by looking at the 2022 Lafayette City Court Budget. Not one car, not two cars, but three cars! So why exactly does Lafayette City Court need vehicles? According to budget documents, funds are allocated to the office and operating expenses of “Judge A” as part of the vehicle allowance program for one vehicle, the office and operating expenses of “Judge B” as part of the vehicle allowance program for one vehicle, with a third vehicle lease being listed in the Lafayette City Court general budget.
One Judge asks the obvious questions
A recent public records request revealed that back in May of this year Judge Michelle Odinet requested a legal opinion as to whether it would be a “reasonable and legitimate operational expense” of the Lafayette City Court to “use court cost fees to lease vehicles for the Clerk of Court, Deputy Clerk of Court, and Judges.” An October 13, 2021 opinion rendered by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office concluded that, as it pertained to vehicle expenses for Lafayette City Court judges, “absent any facts relating these items to the operation of the City Court we are unable to conclude that these vehicle expenses are operational expenses of the court.” As it pertained to the Clerk or Court or Deputy Clerk of Court the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office likewise concluded “we are similarly unable to determine whether these expenses may be operational expenses of the Lafayette City Court.”
So, what we have now is an opportunity for abuse. It appears that the Lafayette City Court system has a profit incentive for the collection of additional court costs. The more revenue they can collect, the more funds can be spent on employee vehicles and other perks. The song keeps going on.. “five potatoes, six potatoes, seven potatoes, more..”
What other perks await discovery?
For over a month, Citizens for a New Louisiana has been waiting on the return of several expense related public records requests from the court. Regular readers will remember that instead of providing us with documents, Judge Doug Saloom hired attorney Gary McGoffin to slow down the process. At some point, they will have to release the records. When they do, we’ll be sure to get you caught up with where else they’ve been spending those public dollars.
With your help, we can make Louisiana transparent!
Citizens for a New Louisiana is the only organization in Louisiana dedicated to reforming local government. With the help of numerous volunteers we are making some progress. However, there’s much more work we could be doing. Making a difference will take a little more than reading an article every now and then. Your community doesn’t need another spectator. They need someone willing to step onto the field and become a real part of the solution. Will you join us?