Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Jay Castille announced Friday that he feels an investigation into an appointee of the mayor-president is necessary, citing a possible conflict of interest.
Joel Robideaux has responded, saying he has already directed city-parish attorneys to investigate; you can read his full statement below.
However, Castille said he’s not satisfied with Robideaux’s response, and he wants an open, unbiased investigation of Marcus Bruno.
“I read his response, and it’s like his first response. It doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t tell us anything,” Castille said when reached by telephone this evening. “I’m not concerned about a public records request; I’m concerned about our policies and procedures: Were they followed? I’m concerned about the laws: Were they violated?”
Castille said he respects the city-parish attorneys, but doesn’t feel their investigation will fill the bill in this situation.
“I think we may need an outside, nonbiased investigation into the matter,” Castille said. “His response doesn’t answer any of the questions people are asking. I’ve asked for an open investigation, and this seems to be a closed investigation. He is not being forthcoming.”
Here’s Robideaux’s response:
In response to some of your direct inquiries related to the Marcus Bruno/LNEDC loan, this email serves to inform you of action taken to date. I want to ensure that you know we have taken this seriously and have been proactive in our efforts to fully vet this matter.
To that point, although veiled public records requests were made as far back as November, 2018, I elevated the issue to a higher level of scrutiny when a January 16th, 2019 public records request was made that specifically inquired about emails between LNEDC and Marcus Bruno. I immediately directed the Legal Department to begin the process of gathering, analyzing, and investigating all pertinent documents and information. Initial efforts quickly revealed that the focus of these inquiries were related to a 2016 mortgage-secured small business loan from LNEDC to LA Consultants, LLC, Marcus Bruno and his wife. The attorneys then began a review of the legality and appropriateness of the loan transaction.
Throughout the past 30 days, the Legal department has kept me informed and has assured me that the information obtained and reviewed, to date, supports the conclusion that there has been full compliance with all rules and laws related to this transaction. In other words, everything investigated thus far confirms that nothing improper has taken place. Rest assured, I stand ready to take action if necessary.
The attorneys’ work is more than 95% complete and my hope is that we will have a full and final report made available to the Council prior to Tuesday’s meeting. In the event they are unable to complete their work by that date, they will be prepared to discuss their findings during the Council’s upcoming public meeting.
As always, thank you for your service and dedication.
Mayor-President Joel Robideaux
It should be noted that it is illegal under Louisiana law for a records custodian to ask anyone – including a reporter – why they are seeking a public record. The law specifically states: The custodian shall make no inquiry of any person who applies for a public record, except an inquiry as to the age and identification of the person and may require the person to sign a register and shall not review, examine or scrutinize any copy, photograph, or memoranda in the possession of any such person.
Castille did not mention the appointee by name in his statement, but officials with Castille’s office say that his comments are concerning Marcus Bruno. Here’s his complete statement from earlier on Friday:
The taxpayers of Lafayette Parish deserve a full vetting of the circumstances surrounding an appointee of the Lafayette Mayor-President receiving a loan from a non-profit over which the Mayor-President has oversight.
While media reports have indicated a potential conflict of interest, it is not entirely clear what procedures are in place, if any, to guard against this and other potential conflicts of interest.
As elected officials, we have a duty to uphold the trust the public places in us. I don’t know whether or not anything improper took place. There are too many unanswered questions at this point to know that – which isn’t fair to either the taxpayers or the employee in question. Therefore, I think it is necessary for Mayor-President Joel Robideaux to open a public, thorough, and fair investigation into this matter so that the public will get the clarity they deserve.”
Earlier this week, KATC’s media partner The Acadiana Advocate reported that in 2016, Marcus Bruno borrowed $35,000 from Lafayette Neighborhood’s Economic Development Corp. for use by LA Consultants, a firm owned by Bruno.
On Sunday, Robideaux sent a press release out on behalf of his office saying, “I am deeply disappointed in the misleading headline and story.”
In the mayor-president’s release, after the article came out, Robideaux acknowledged Bruno and his wife applied for a small business loan. He says Lafayette Neighborhoods grants minority small business loans and is separate from LCG. Robideaux went on to say, “to suggest that this is anything other than a properly issued loan is a serious distortion of the facts.”
We’ve reached out to Castille to see if he is satisfied with Robideaux’s response.