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Nov 15, 2010 9:49 PM by Alison Haynes

Audit raises questions about Jefferson nonprofit

GRETNA, La. (AP) - A publicly funded nonprofit program for underprivileged youth in Jefferson Parish could provide little or no documentation for many expenditures, including more than $100,000 paid to a firm owned by state Rep. Girod Jackson, according to a state legislative audit.
The audit also said Jefferson Parish Council member Byron Lee may have violated state conflict of interest law by directing $170,000 in parish money to the foundation - the Jefferson Sports and Scholastic Foundation - which paid three members of his family a total of about $3,800.
According to The Times-Picayune, Lee's political supporters formed the foundation in 2004 when he was elected to the Parish Council. The foundation gives school uniforms to needy children, hands out trophies at public playgrounds, and holds free summer camps and after-school tutorials.
In 2006, the foundation paid Jackson's firm, Diversified Ventures, $73,000 to provide certified teachers for a computer tutorial program funded by a $200,000 grant from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Jackson was unable to provide copies of checks paid to tutors, tutors' timesheets and student sign-in sheets, the audit said. He told auditors that a 2007 flood destroyed a laptop computer and filing cabinet where the records were stored. He did not return a call seeking comment Monday afternoon from The Associated Press.
The audit report said Lee made five motions that led to the Jefferson Parish Council providing $240,000 to the foundation.
"A review of checks and bank statements showed that from June 2005 to August 2007, the Foundation paid two of Councilman Lee's siblings and his son a total of $3,785," the audit report said.
The report said Lee may have violated the law by voting for funding for an entity in which his immediate family members may have had a substantial economic interest. The foundation responded that the $3,785 is less than a half a percent of its funding and therefore none of Lee's relatives could be seen to have substantial economic interest in the foundation.
"Not one time did I ever vote for anything that carried a financial benefit for my family or myself," Lee told The Times-Picayune on Monday, adding that he is not involved in the foundation's operations. He said his brother, a carpenter, was hired to replace a door at the foundation's offices. He said his sister worked briefly as a camp counselor, and his son was a summer camp assistant.

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