The Times Picayune tackles a topic that has appeared here many times: A why Gwen Bollotte should have been fired years ago update.

In our coverage of Jefferson Parish Government we’ve run across the name of former Jefferson Parish CFO Gwen Bolotte a few times, normally with me expressing the opinion she needed to be fired for not doing her job as Parish Finance Director.  I termed her a doormat in fact and that is a good description of her job performance in both the Performing Arts fiasco and the Parish’s ham handed dealings with Waste Management in trying to cancel the contract with them so that the Parish’s garbage could be hauled to the River Birch Landfill at considerably more costs to parish residents.  I mention this because Bob Ross has a curious story in today’s Times Picayune that allows John Young and Chris Roberts to capitalize on Bolotte’s departure for purely self-serving public relations purposes. Roberts using this issue is particularly sickening given he employes the Master of Disaster Deano Bonano as a council aid at a nice 6 figure salary despite Bonano deserving the same fate as Bolotte. Instead Roberts recycled him from John Young’s chop shop.  First lets visit with Ross and his story for the Sunday Picayune:

Bolotte’s decision is more troubling, Roberts said, given her position as chief financial officer in Parish President John Young’s administration.

“Gwen is a CPA. She has a fiduciary duty to hold her ground in certain situations. I would expect our CFO — and I’ve told this to John already — that if she’s put in a compromising position that she knows may or may not be in the best interest of the parish, that she make a decision to stand up and say: ‘We have questions about this and I’m not comfortable, and we need further documentation.'”

Turning a “blind eye” to Whitmer’s order, as Roberts described Bolotte’s reaction, was not in Jefferson’s best interests. “That’s a real problem,” he said. “How many time have you heard her say over the years, ‘I was instructed to do that by my superiors.'”

Young generally agreed with Roberts’ assessment.

“Hindsight is 20-20, but if she had questions, she shouldn’t have processed the check,” he said recently, before Bolotte announced her retirement. “I can tell you this: We made sure Gwen knows that nothing will be paid without proper documentation. That will not happen again. Also, nothing will be paid without accounting doing the proper checks and balances.”

Both men act as if there was not an existing policy to never pay expenses without documentation in Jefferson Parish and of course there was and is such a policy.  In both the case involving Waste Management and the Performing Arts Center, Bolotte was exactly what then Parish President Aaron Broussard and the council wanted in a doormat that would do exactly what they told her to do.  Tom Wilkinson in particular was a thug in a suit and is no doubt the guy Pat Tovrea emulates over on the Jefferson Parish School Board.  Tim Whitmer also used threats and intimidation as a management tool and that, along with a Parish President and Parish council directing everything is the real problem.  All quality administrators like Reda Youssef and Rick Buller proved was that standing up to bullies by sticking to the policy and procedure book would not result in their termination because the risk they would squeal on the wrong doing would be greatly increased if they were fired for doing their jobs. We see that playing out now in the suit Anne Marie Vandenweghe has against the Parish, a news item the Times Picayune has mostly ignored. I bet both Youssel and Buller both know in spades to never turn their back on Roberts.

But reporter Ross was not done folks since he let John Young and Chris Roberts trash Bolotte to cover for their own culpability in the Performing Arts Center clusterfuck he had to get reaction from the LCPA, likely the last people who wanted to get dragged into Ross’s hit piece as we continue:

Whether Bolotte had an ethical obligation as a CPA to “take a stand” is unclear, said Grady Hazel, executive director of the Society of Louisiana CPAs.

The general rule is that a CPA should not subordinate his or her judgment to others, Hazel said. “That means just because my boss tells me to do something, my excuse can’t be that my boss told me to do so.”

But in this case, he added: “It really depends on the organization’s policies and what’s the normal process. I think you’re in a gray area here.”

There is no gray area here Grady as the Parish had good policies and procedures. Elected official and their henchmen, with the help of their doormat Gwen Bolotte, over rode the policies and procedures that were in place. There is no candy coating the downside to being a doormat here folks as not only are doormats not respected professionally they also get to play the role of patsy on the back end. That said I also won’t candy coat my critique of today’s story on Bolotte as Ross has peddled pure crap to the readers of the Picayune as his article is all about letting a couple of politicians seek some PR cover for their decisions.  Harry Truman didn’t put the “Buck stops here” sign on the desk of his Treasury Secretary for a reason folks.

Finally I’ll now openly wonder if the beat reporters at the Picayune could do any reporting on Jefferson Parish if they had no access to the elected officials.  I do not have such access for instance and frankly I don’t need it because I’ve found the people who truly know the score, the humble public servants that are the employees of Jefferson Parish are very happy to talk and share what is going on both now and back when during Aaron Broussard’s reign of terror on all but the politically connected in Parish Government.  We see real flashes of quality journalism from time to time in some of Paul Rioux’s reporting but then a stinker like today’s story floats up and you simply gotta wonder what they were thinking.  I’ve found that Parish employees want to tell their story and I think everyone that reads Slabbed is more informed because of it.  I don’t think I’ll ever have to worry about losing my sources because they all tell me to the person they do not trust the local media. I think stories like the one today would be the reason why.

Speaking of informed maybe next time Bob Ross goes to visit Mini-me Chris Roberts maybe he should ask him as to the role of his council aid Deano Bonano and now HR Director Peggy Barton played in the Performing Arts Center debacle as Bolotte has plenty of company in that saga in those two people.  Maybe they should send some written questions to Councilman Elton Lagasse asking him whether he has retained a personal lawyer now that the feds have been poking around the Yenni Building again for several weeks  recently.  In fact that would also be a good question to ask Mini-Me Roberts too.

Another good question to ask Mini-me is why the council overrode the scoring by the professionals inside Parish Government to continue with Waste Management instead of going with the more expensive, albeit politically connected IESI. Who will reporters like Ross let politicians like Roberts blame when such questionable decisons come back to bite the taxpayers in the ass as they routinely do? I guarantee you it won’t be a sitting politican with a major role in the disaster folks.

So there you have it folks, John Young and Chris Roberts, with the help of the Times Picayune pissed all over Gwen Bolotte to cover their own culpability in the Performing Arts Center debacle.  File this under SNAFU.

sop

10 thoughts on “The Times Picayune tackles a topic that has appeared here many times: A why Gwen Bollotte should have been fired years ago update.”

  1. Too LITTLE too LATE.

    Just as despicable as those who allowed scores of children to suffer being RAPED by Sandusky, these officials have WATCHED & PARTICIPATED in the RAPE of JP Taxpayers.

    DISGUSTING & UNACCEPTABLE ~

  2. There seems to be an awful lot of funneling of corruption stories out of the office of Chris Roberts to local media lately, hasn't there? Stories where Chris Roberts plays the good guy whistleblower and John Young is the incompetent hypocrite?

    Did anyone catch the little blurb in the TP on Margie Seeman and CFGG this weekend? The headline online is different than the one that appeared in the actual paper by the way.

    Somewhere in the JPAC story discussions there should be a note about Sen. Ken Hollis. He originally got the funding and personally guaranteed that he personally would oversee the spending and Calderara's performance.

    Then of course he passes on and who gets appointed to the Council but…. his wife. Odd.

    There were also 1-3 taxes (mills, property taxes) rededicated for purposes of operating the JPAC….. one of them, the 3.5 mill rededication went to not just the JPAS but also the Alario Center, the Gretna heritage or museum fund, and a museum in Lafitte. Gee, who would enjoy that funding the most and whose favor would that curry?

    This is all in the old TP reports by the way. In those same archives there is so much on Calderara it is really hard to recount efficiently. But aside from his prior lawsuits and multiple boondoggles, he also (as stated here) worked on the Zephyr Stadium build (right next door on LaSalle Tract after all), he worked on the Alario Center, and one or more projects in Kenner.

    Also, does anyone know from whom the LaSalle Tract was originally purchased? Because that piece of property just seems to be the gift that just keeps giving and giving and giving over the years. And the same guy's been gifted twice?

  3. Finisterre I believe the Parish got Lasalle as part of the settlement involving the Canal Bottoms. The taxpayer fleecing never stoppped it has just taken a different form.

    sop

  4. The management structure within Parish government appears to be seriously disfunctional. Scapegoating is a symptom of that disfunctionality. How convenient that both the administraiton and the council can find a scapegoat to cover up for their own lack of leadership. Scapegoating is a projection defense. It is the ego saying "If I can put the blame on you, I don't have to recognize and take responsibility for the negative qualities in myself. That is the real issue here, IMHO.

  5. Canal bottoms (Robco) LaSalle tract, bought & paid-for judges, Southen Railway, Jimmy Fitzmorris, River Birch landfill, John Mamoulidis, Moon Landrieu, Connick, Connick, & Connick and John Alario have (besides Edwin Edwards) at least one common denominator: Carlos Marcello; and all legacy that name implies. The names change, but the game has been the same since the days of Frank Langridge and Bill Cocci: Jefferson Parrish IS the "family" business!
    The only solution is either a plague, or a pogrom! Or live like roaches and hide from the light, and try not to get stepped on!

  6. Last week I had lunch with 'Gate and noticed he understood the concept of modern day economic slavery and that is exactly what everyone that pays into the cesspool is, little different from the old days of protection rackets etc.

    Regarding the management structure of the Parish as we've posted more than a few organization charts. The Parish's internal controls are supposedly audited every year as required by statute.

    I did not note any internal control weaknesses involving making payments without paperwork or problems in construction contract management. The 2009 report:
    http://app1.lla.state.la.us/PublicReports.nsf/979

    PDF page 259 is laughable.

    The 2008 report:
    http://app1.lla.state.la.us/PublicReports.nsf/68E

    PDF page 245 the auditors noted an unfavorable $11,000 budget variance.

    I'd urge everyone to revisit the audit report on the performing arts center.
    http://app1.lla.state.la.us/PublicReports.nsf/630

    During our audit, it was noted that after receiving Center invoices from other Parish departments, the Parish Finance Department lacked a proper set of internal controls to review and approve the Center invoices for payment. This lack of controls allowed the Parish Finance Department to make the following payments:

    1. A $5.6 million payment was made without the Parish Finance Department obtaining or reviewing the invoices or supporting documentation.

    2. The Parish paid Wisznia $18,414, for invoices that were either submitted after the required date for submission or for receipts with no date.

    3. The Parish paid the same $87,500, Carothers Construction invoice three times. The Parish subsequently recovered these funds only after Carothers Construction discovered the duplicate payments.

    4. Prior to October 10, 2002, the Parish Finance Department did not record expenses related to the Center land improvements in the Center project fund.

    Absolutely Gwen Bolotte was a disaster, the Parish's regular auditors were blind but that did not stop the 2010 report from winning the Financial Reporting Good Seal of Approval. I hope everyone understands a financial reporting award is worth nothing beyond good looking bean counting. Somewhere in this audit failure is the reason I stopped doing that kind of work because I only knew of only one way to audit and it was incompatable with the way the system is set up.

    But we need to drill down on item #1 because this goes beyond a dysfunctional accounting department, which I contend was that way by design of the Broussard Administration and continue with the Leg Auditor:

    In June 2009, the Parish paid JCC $5.6 million7 for change order five on the Center construction project. Parish Finance Department records did not include an invoice to support this payment. According to Finance Director Gwen Bolotte, she was instructed by Mr. Whitmer to generate a check for $5.6 million on June 24, 2009, the day the council was meeting to vote to approve the payment. She further stated that the check was generated without the Parish Finance Department receiving or reviewing the supporting documentation for the expense and that the Capital Projects Department never sent the documentation to the Finance Department. According to former Parish Accounting Director Lorrie Toups, each payment generated by the Finance Department should have the supporting documentation, such as an invoice, attached to a copy of the payment and stored in the Accounting Department check vault.

    Mr. Youssef stated that all change orders are submitted by the Center contractor, JCC, to the construction management company, P&C, who reviews and approves each change order prior to submittal to the Parish Capital Projects Department. Mr. Youssef further stated that change order five originally totaled $6.2 million, but after review by the Parish Engineering Department, was reduced to $2.85 million. This reduction was due to the removal of delay charges.

    The change order was then submitted to the Finance Department for payment. At this point, Mr. Youssef stated that Mr. Whitmer requested that he approve the payment for $5.6 million. Mr. Youssef stated that he did not approve the payment and decided that he would no longer approve change orders for the Center. In addition, following the Parish Administration’s decision to disregard the Parish Engineering Department’s recommendations for change order five, the Parish Engineering Department was no longer willing to be responsible for entering Center invoices and change orders into the Parish accounting system and began sending the invoices to the Parish Parks and Recreation Department for entry into the Parish accounting system. Mr. Youssef stated that after the council approved the change order for $5.6 million, he sent the unapproved documentation supporting change order five to accounting.

    And of course Whitmer said Elton Lagasse told him to approve the change order including a $2.6MM delay claim and Lagasse has since gone into hiding. The above situation is called a management override. The internal control (proper approval of all change orders) functioned had Mr Youssef been allowed to do his job.

    And while I'm driving the point home it was Deano Bonano that made the call to effectively cut out code enforcement from oversight of the project removing an important internal control. But WTF was the Master of Disaster ever doing impersonating a project manager to begin with? I was close but not quite there folks because I didn't say it outright last time but will say it here that the Performing Art Center project was managed straight out of Aaron Broussard's office. This is the essence of management override.

    Why would high ranking officials even bother themselves with the minutae involved in managing such a large project. And why was a huge delay claim approved in the shadows? Rich Rainey's reporting on this change order is fantasy compared to what the Legislative Auditor said and I feel certain he was simply writing what he heard in the council meeting.

    I'll likely post this along with a summary doc in a dedicated post. Someone needs to tell the boys at the T-P they better bone up on what really happened with the Performing Arts Center before they piss all over Gwen Bolotte for being a doormat and give the politicians a pass.

    sop

  7. Sop : Great blog especially about Chris "The Special Man" Roberts and his big dick, campaign sign erector, Bonano, who helped keep the JPAC screwed up and without Code inspection.

    Roberts, Bonano and Largeass all need to be indicted by U.S. Attorney Office.

    Lettemgo robot needs to be re-manufactured, retooled and tattooed incompetent for his lack of indictments.

    And the TP needs to go bankrupt and vacate the Metro area as it is controlled by the political cronies themselves.

  8. Uh…was Steve Theriot the Legislative Auditor during this period of NON-OVERSIGHT of all things Jefferson Parish?

    Odd that he never ever, not once, saw ANYTHING worth investigating in Broussard's Administration or in JP Council votes…very odd that…

  9. Sop has hit on what I think has escaped most people … that two of the most damming legacies the taxpayers of Jefferson Parish are and will continue to be responsible for in the future, were decisions concerning River Birch and Calderera which elevated corruption to another level of political intrigue, as Aaron Broussard, elected Parish President (he had already served 8 years as Council Chairman previously), together with Council members, Chris Roberts, Elton Lagasse, Byron Lee, Louis Congemi, Jennifer Sneed, Tom Capella and John Young were sworn in Jan. 2004 …

    Quoting Sop in part from his comment:
    “ … In both the case involving Waste Management and the Performing Arts Center, Bolotte was exactly what then Parish President Aaron Broussard and the council wanted in a doormat that would do exactly what they told her to do. Tom Wilkinson in particular was a thug in a suit …….Tim Whitmer also used threats and intimidation as a management tool and that, along with a Parish President and Parish council directing everything is the real problem…”

    The ‘de facto’ conspiracy of unbridled collusion evidenced by a continued pattern of 7-0 votes by this Council with acceding concurrence by the Parish President, meeting after meeting, month after month, year after year, has resulted in a government by default, lacking the consensus of a majority of registered voters participating in a democratic electoral process …

    With the maturing of this Jefferson Parish Politico Mafioso, who with the protection of DA Connick and US Attorney Letten, they presently rule as the strong armed Fascists they truly are … using large amounts of money in campaign funds, coupled with the ability to raise more, is to intimidate any one from participating, as a candidate or as a voter …

    That mini-me Roberts, LargeASS and Young hold the citizens to such a shameless degree of contempt is obviated by the their spewing of lie after lie of denial and/or blame game tactics in attempt to spin their active and documented culpability in the criminal conspiracy to award River Birch an illegal landfill monopoly and continuing to pay a corrupt contractor millions upon millions of dollars for undocumented work …

    And as long as there are reporters in the MSM of all media venues, who choose to act as these politico mafiosos’ public relations hacks … the cover up of the CITIZENRY ABUSE by these politico thugs will continue to facilitate these POLITICAL PREDATORS’ of taxpayers’ monies …

    2012 may not be the end of the world as the Mayan Calendar has suggested …

    However 2012 will be the end of democracy in Jefferson Parish by our calendar … when a majority of the JP Council (Roberts, Lagasse, Lee-Sheng, Johnston) and a Parish President, ALL OF WHOM DID NOT RECEIVE ONE VOTE for the office they will be sworn in to hold !!!

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