Monday, February 23, 2015

The Wisner Trust - Grants get doled out along with a lot of misinformation

Mayor Landrieu doles out $1.13 million in Wisner fund grants

"The latest: a state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal ruling in September that Landrieu, as mayor, would remain the fund's sole trustee"

The 4th Circuit didn't declare the Mayor the sole trustee, he has always been the sole trustee.  But the real question is, "How can the Mayor be the sole 'trustee' if the trust itself is dissolved?"  If the trust is, in fact, dissolved then City Council now has total oversight over the grant money. It would seem the Mayor effectively sued himself out of the trustee position if the trust is actually dissolved.

In fact, he legally shouldn't even be doling out a dime of that money without City Council's approval.  CC just doesn't seem to have the will to challenge him on it.  I would humbly suggest they find the will soon because they are fiscally responsible for what is happening with the City's portion of the funds and I would humbly suggest there may be big problems with how those funds have been disbursed.

"The money is generated from 50,000 acres of lucrative coastal land that includes major land leases -- including the property under Port Fourchon -- to the oil and gas industry."

The bulk of the land bestowed in the Wisner donation is not coastal, only the Wisner Beach is technically coastal.  Here is a map:

"The City of New Orleans owns all the land that Port Fourchon sits on....." - Mayor Landrieu

No it doesn't...not even close.  The donation constitutes about 60% of Port Fourchon and includes Wisner Beach which is a small portion.  The importance of Wisner Beach is that the LOOP (Louisiana Offshore Oil Port) has piping which runs underneath it on its way in shore.  This particular lease generates a significant portion of the oil and gas royalties that comprise the fund but the primary money generators are the leases from the Port and Chevron.  And the city of New Orleans is not the sole owner of the land, there are currently four other owners:  LSU, Tulane, The Salvation Army and the Wisner heirs.

The sport fisherman's boat launch is on Wisner property but it certainly doesn't constitute "all the land that Port Fourchon sits on...".

It makes me wonder if Mitch is deluded or simply unaware of the reality.  It seems like he thinks he owns everything, including Port Fourchon, and he thinks he's going to do whatever he wants with it.  What he wants, as I suggested back at the beginning of this battle, is to sell the land while he's still in office using the proceeds however he sees fit.  And by the looks of many of the donation recipients he sees fit to pay off his peeps and lucrative voting blocs (I have more coming on that issue soon).

This article is the first time he's publicly admitted that intent (to sell), "Landrieu, who once considered selling the land, said his team is assessing the property's worth -- a study he compared to his administration's evaluation of the Public Belt Railroad."

Dream on.  He can't sell that land without the consent of the other four owners or by winning a protracted and vicious court battle that would run well past his tenure in office.  It's also worth noting that both the heirs and LSU filed writs regarding the 4th Circuit's decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Wisner heirs writ to LA Supreme Court

LSU writ to LA Supreme Court

No surprise...the LASC denied the writs last week.

It's curious to me that neither The Advocate nor the TP bothered to ask the Mayor how much each of the recipients received out of the $1.13 million.  Last week I posted what I believe to be the allocation amounts to each respective organization, but I'm not sure this is 100% accurate.

If it is accurate the big winners are the mayor's pet projects: Ceasefire New Orleans ($348,600), Mayoral Fellows Program ($233,837), and a new organization created by Landrieu, the Network for Economic Opportunity ($250,000).  All totaled these three organizations, none of which arguably fit the definition of grant recipients, add up to $832, 437... about 3/4 of the entire grant allocation.

I've written extensively about the Ceasefire program here on AZ and some questionable accounting as to money that was disbursed to the organization's fiscal agent, the Urban League.  I've been digging deeper into some issues I've discovered with Ceasefire and some other grant recipients but I want to wait to publish that info as I think The Lens has done more extensive research and I hope to see a story from them soon.

The major increase in money going to the Mayoral Fellows Program from last year is curious as well. I published a post in August about how there was some screwy biz going on with how the program was listed in the municipal code.

I have no idea what the Network for Economic Opportunity is all about but I find it hard to believe that it even remotely fits the guidelines that were originally established for grant recipients.

More to come...



Calph said...

I think you've made an error in your math here.

You'll note that the original list you posted noted $1.96M in grants, and the press release included $1.13M in grants- the difference there is ~$830,000, the same as the amount that went to Landrieu's pet projects (unjustifiably, to be sure).

So the $1.13M referenced in the article appears to be the total amount of grants EXCLUDING Ceasefire NOLA, Mayoral Fellows, and Network for Economic Opportunity. "Only" 43% of funding from this round went to pet causes, rather than 3/4.

Interesting that the press conference and Times Pic article omitted those self-serving grants from discussion altogether.

Jason Brad Berry said...

I believe you're right, sir. I will note that later on tonight.