Many feel the recent City Internal Auditor’s report to the Shreveport City Council, regarding the switching of the City’s insurance policies by Shreveport Mayor Perkins, earlier this year, merits much closer attention. For many others, however, they may say, “This is old news,” and urge us all to just “move along.”
But for anyone who has read the report, you know that there is much more at stake here than a sensational headline or political jab. It’s about the precedent of any elected official, in the future, who skirts the law to award a public contract to family or friends, and then authorizes paying such family or friends with the your money, while ignoring that such ill-gotten contracts were unlawful (and unenforceable) in the first place.
And many feel this is the crux of the Auditor’s report.
You see, when Mayor Perkins apparently authorized a $250,000 check be issued to Frost Insurance of Dallas in April this year, as a commission payment for Roddrelle Sykes (the first cousin of the Mayor’s campaign manager and the City’s new insurance agent of record), he may have done more than use City funds to pay someone for services rendered to the City — he may have committed malfeasance in office by intentionally refusing or failing “to perform any duty lawfully required of him,” as Mayor (such as getting City Council authorization first, as prescribed by the City Charter, before making such a payment, or ensuring fairness in the insurance procurement process by issuing a “request for proposal,” to begin with).
According to the Auditor, the services rendered by Frost Insurance of Dallas (and by the hand-picked insurance agent of record, Roddrelle Sykes) should have been procured through a “request for proposal” (in accordance with Section 26-269 of the City Ordinances and La. R.S. 39:1551-1755). However, those services were not procured in that manner, or apparently through any other lawful means (according to the Auditor’s report, which says “that no appropriate process was followed”), nor does it appear that the Mayor’s payment for said services was made lawfully, either.
By compelling this $250,000 check be paid from City coffers, over the strenuous objection of the City Council (where 5 of 7 council members voted to NOT authorize Mayor Perkins to make this payment), it becomes more than merely a political matter. Again, it’s a matter of comporting with the law.
The Mayor’s office apparently knew that already, though, because the Mayor submitted resolution no. 53 to the City Council on April 9, in which he plainly stipulates (in writing) that the City Council must first approve him issuing any payment to Frost Bank of Dallas, including the $250,000 payment for Roddrelle Sykes. In asking for this authorization from the City Council on April 9, the Mayor included the following language in his resolution:
“WHEREAS, pursuant to Shreveport City Charter Section 10.02(r) and Ordinance No. 18 of 2019, the Mayor is making a recommendation to the City Council for its approval regarding the amount and type of all insurance premiums…”
And while the Mayor certainly made his “recommendation to the City Council” on April 9 regarding insurance premiums (including to pay Roddrelle Sykes $250,000 in commission), the City Council seemed not very enthused about providing their approval. Sensing the lack of support from the City Council during the meeting, the Mayor seemingly changed his mind about the matter, and made no motion to add resolution no 53 to the agenda (which would have paid Frost Bank of Dallas, including Roddrelle Sykes).
Even without it being added to the agenda, though, the City Council took up the issue anyway, and convened a special meeting on April 15 to consider the Mayor’s request for their approval to pay.
The City Council decided to authorize Mayor Perkins to make payment of the “invoices for premiums” (so that we did not have any lapse in coverage). But as to the $250,000 invoice for Roddrelle Sykes? The City Council voted, and 5 out of 7 City Council members agreed – this $250,000 invoice “should not be paid without adequate documentation and justification and approved by this body.”
After the vote, Mayor Perkins apparently caused the $250,000 check to be written, and it was sent to Roddrelle Sykes, anyway.
So, the City Council had voted, in a bi-partisan manner, against authorizing the Mayor to pay the $250,000, and it just didn’t matter to the Mayor. The reasons cited by the City Council (for not approving the $250,000 invoice) included inadequate documentation, as well as no justification as to why the insurance premiums already billed for the insurance policies (which is $622,325 more than our insurance cost the previous year) would not have included the fees and charges (like the $250,000 in question). After all, this is required by law.
You see, Louisiana already requires fees and charges to be included as part of the premium quoted to the insured. Louisiana R.S. 22:855 reads, in part, “No insurer or its officer, employee, producer or other representative shall charge or receive any fee, compensation, or consideration for insurance which is not included in the premium quoted to the insured…”
From the City Council’s perspective (regarding the $250,000 invoice submitted), the Mayor had not presented enough information to explain why the City was paying Roddrelle Sykes this fee or commission, when the law seemingly requires the premium amounts to already include any such fees or commissions.
That’s why the City Council wasn’t approving the payment (according to the official meeting minutes from April 15), and rather than provide the requested information to the City Council, Mayor Perkins presumably decided that – on second thought – he didn’t require City Council authorization to make payments to Frost Bank of Dallas, or anyone else, for insurance (even though it was the Mayor who had initiated the request (on April 9) for City Council’s approval of the payments.
So, the recently released auditor’s report is simply a detailed investigation of how we got here, regarding the switching of the City’s insurance.
Remember it was last December, when Mayor Perkins said that the City’s switching of insurance, less than 24 hours before he was inaugurated into office, was due to “guidance” he had given during the transition from the Tyler administration. He told us that he “changed the City’s insurance agent to save the citizens of Shreveport money”. He told us he had done his “due diligence” in choosing a qualified and “reputable insurance agent of record.”
In actuality, according to the Auditor’s report, we now know that that neither Mayor Tyler nor the previous City Attorney authorized “any changes to the City’s insurances.” In fact, the Auditor’s investigation states that the directive to change the insurance “came from the current Chief Advisor to the Mayor, who was not a City employee at the time.”
We now know, that instead of saving citizens money, the Mayor’s decision cost us more than $622,000 more in premiums this year (compared to last), with $515 million less in coverage, as well. And we know now, despite the Mayor’s claim of “due diligence,” that the Auditor’s investigation found “that no appropriate process was followed” (at all) and that the new agent of record, in fact, “had no prior municipal property insurance experience.”
And yet – when the City Council asked the Mayor, in light of all the above – to provide more documentation for the $250,000 check he was so anxiously wanting to write to Roddrelle Sykes, the Mayor decided to circumvent the process (which is prescribed in the City Charter) and he apparently wrote the check, anyway, the rule of law, or representative government, be damned.
You know, maybe it is like Will Rogers said once, “It’s going to be hard to make an issue of corruption. It’s like the poor, it’s always been with us.” While that may be true, we must not give in to these shenanigans, either. For when you stop fighting for what you want, what you don’t want will automatically take over.
And for the majority of Shreveporters, despite the corrupt and inept who are in the way — we’re not ready to stop fighting, nor will some of us ever give in.
Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney, and author of Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great. He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and Trump elector. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at [email protected], and on American Ground Radio weeknights from 6 – 7 PM, streaming live on keelnews.com, on iTunes, and at americangroundradio.com.