After steering clear of controversy for a year, the latest flareup involving Shreveport’s Democrat Mayor Adrian Perkins couldn’t have come at a worse time for him.
Up through the end of 2020, Perkins’ first two years in office had been tumultuous. The rookie politician made several policy and ethical missteps, culminating in a disastrous political move of running for the U.S. Senate and performing very poorly. It seemed to bode ill for a shot at reelection this year, but 2021 passed quietly for him without him attached to negative attention-getting events.
Until the end of the year. After some voluntary personnel resignations, at last year’s beginning the city needed to fill the chief administrative officer’s position, one of the most powerful in its ranks that requires City Council confirmation. Tapped to fill it in the interim was Kasey Brown, who had joined the Finance Department not long after Perkins took over. Brown, about Perkins’ age, had vaulted straight from a few years as an assistant bank branch manager – about the lowest managerial level in retail banking possible – into an assistant CFO position.
He, along with Ben Hebert, 50 years his senior and a department employee for nearly a decade and at a comparable administrative level as city controller for the past couple of years, applied for the permanent post. Neither got in as a search failed over the course of the year, but at its conclusion Hebert says he presented Brown and Perkins with evidence of financial irregularities, which he says got him his walking papers shortly thereafter.
Earlier this year, Perkins decided to forward Brown’s name for the permanent job, but before that came up for City Council consideration, Hebert announced and carried through with a complaint to the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging age and racial discrimination (both Perkins and Brown are black, Hebert is white) in his termination. He also claimed retaliation for his firing over his allegations.
This prompted Republican City Councilor John Nickelson to request that the Louisiana Legislative Auditor review the allegations. Shortly thereafter, he was removed as chairman of the Council committee that dealt with financial affairs. Over the next two Council meetings, the Brown appointment was delayed, then postponed, and since then the LLA has proceeded with its inquiry. To make matters more interesting, right after the withdrawal media circulated information about more than a dozen run-ins Brown has experienced with law enforcement over the past dozen-plus years, including a short stint in jail for failing to appear at court.
None of this shines a flattering light on Perkins’ judgment in personnel matters, but that he seemed indifferent about the allegations appears worse, especially if the LLA finds merit to Hebert’s claims. Yet worse of all is that some of the supposed irregularities have to do with Perkins’ travel, in that the mayor didn’t provide necessary documentation for vouchered expenses.
All this together adds yet one more charge to ethical issues surrounding Perkins, with no guarantee that the audit will conclude before the election, if it even exonerates him and city officials. His mayoral opponents can have a field day in adding to their campaign spiels this dripping faucet of an issue that they can assert convincingly signals a pattern of unethical behavior that renders him unfit to serve. The aphorism that leopards don’t change their spots both seems appropriate and detrimental to the reelection hopes of Perkins.