Finally, JBE Is Getting Involved In The COA Mess In Baton Rouge

WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge had an interesting scoop this afternoon about the burgeoning mess surrounding Tasha Clark Amar and her wasteful and crooked Baton Rouge Council on Aging…

Following a tumultuous two weeks for the East Baton Rouge Parish Council on Aging, the WBRZ Investigative Unit has learned the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs has launched an investigation into the EBR Council on Aging. The East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor also weighed in today, saying she’s confident the state’s investigation will bring justice to all sides.

In a letter sent to EBR COA Board Chairman Brandon Dumas, the state agency wrote it considers members of the board and agency staff being involved in a deceased woman’s will a conflict of interest and unethical behavior.

The state inquiry is related to reports the WBRZ Investigative Unit broke two weeks ago involving Helen Plummer’s estate.  Plummer, a 95-year-old and council on aging attendee, had a will drafted on her behalf naming Tasha Clark Amar, the Executive Director at the EBR Council on Aging, as the overseer of Plummer’s vast estate.  Clark Amar was set to make $125,000 off the assets until she and other council on aging employees and board members involved removed themselves from the will.  The will was written by COA Attorney and Board Member Dorothy Jackson.

The letter that OEA sent is a lot of fun. Amar and her people have until close of business Monday to answer it or else “further action” could be coming.

The state investigaton seeks a plan of action from the EBR COA Board of Directors related to everyone’s involvement in the will.

The letter states the plan of action must include the following:

1. How the board will verify that Clark Amar and EBR COA employees have not been listed in any other last will and testament of any other EBR COA Client.

2. Actions the board take to remedy what the state considers were a conflict of interest, unethical behavior of EBR COA staff and board members.

3. What, if any, policies and procedures will be put in place to prevent this from happening again.

4. Why Plummer was not referred to Southeast LA Legal Services, the EBR COA contractor who provides legal assistance for elderly clients.

Today’s developments mark a shift in the winds coming from the governor’s office, as his Elderly Affairs office had taken the position it would let EBR COA handle the investigation internally. Edwards most certainly would prefer not to have a particularly large set of consequences to come from Amar’s troubles, as the COA has turned into quite the little vote turnout machine for the Democrat Party in the state’s capitol city.

But the problem is, Amar and her patrons in the North Baton Rouge political mob are giving off a rather sizable stench, particularly after last night’s fiasco in which four Democrats walked out of a Metro Council meeting after losing a vote to levy an $8 million property tax hike to benefit the COA. Republicans on the council had proposed a 30-day pause in order to let an audit of the COA’s finances in order to investigate allegations that Amar used COA funds illegally for printing and mailing flyers pushing both the tax and a slate of Democrat candidates in last fall’s elections. When they had enough votes to block the levy, chaos ensued – and with the walkout of the Democrats, the levy will now be delayed for 60 days per council rules. It’s officially a political liability that Edwards cannot afford amid a legislative session in which his agenda consists mostly of long-shot bills.

The magnitude of the odor has finally moved Baton Rouge’s mayor-president Sharon Weston Broome, who benefited in no small amount from COA electioneering efforts last fall which could well be found violative of state ethics laws in her 4,000-vote margin victory over Bodi White, to break her silence over Amar’s predicament…

For the first time since the mess unfolded at the Council on Aging, East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President weighed in. She released the following statement:

“We, as citizens – including elected officials – should do everything in our power to ensure our elderly residents have a quality way of life.  They are gems in our community.  I am confident that the state’s investigation will lead to justice for all parties involved. It is important to remember that all agencies serving our community, including the Council on Aging, have oversight and policies in place, implemented by their respective board of directors, that are designed to assure good governance.  At the end of the day, we must ensure our seniors still receive their services.”

Nobody is saying seniors shouldn’t get services. In fact, lots of people are saying the COA shouldn’t be swindling their heirs out of their inheritances, and that COA money intended to provide seniors services shouldn’t be diverted for purposes of influencing elections. It appears Broome doesn’t have much to say about that.

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