Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux is defending one of his aides who is accused of using federal grant money for his personal business.
KATC’s media partner The Acadiana Advocate reports 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.
Sunday night, Robideaux sent a press release out on behalf of his office saying, “I am deeply disappointed in the misleading headline and story.” He would not go on camera with us today, nor would he defend his aide before the story came out.
Meanwhile, The Advocate is standing by its reporting.
Ben Myers, staff writer for The Acadiana Advocate said through his research of non-profit Lafayette Neighborhoods, he discovered the loan to Marcus Bruno.
“The story doesn’t accuse him of making any violations, but it points out these regulations exist,” said Myers.
Regulations such as who can apply for these loans and what the minimum requirements are.
“The regulation says that any city-parish employees or employee of the grantee who is in a position to have inside information or participates in decision making regarding the CDBG money can’t personally benefit from it,” Myers said.
According to the Advocate, a city-parish employee provided Bruno with detailed information about the grant-fed loan fund. Bruno sent an application to the loan program from his city-parish email to his personal address.
“I specifically requested an interview with Joel Robideaux,” Myers said.
He corresponded with Robideaux’s office eight times via phone calls, text messages and emails. His requests for an interview were unanswered.
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.”
However, we found a 2016 investigative audit by the state Legislative Auditor of Lafayette Neighborhoods Economic Development, and it states the program is “operates as a component unit of the Lafayette Consolidated Government, which provides oversight to the program.” LNEDC’s own website states it gets financial support from LCG and HUD.
We’ve asked Robideaux for clarification on that issue. As of yet, he hasn’t responded.
“He didn’t point out any facts that were inaccurate, he didn’t explain what he thought was misleading and he didn’t address what he thought could be a conflict of interests issue under federal guidelines,” said Myers. “He didn’t address any of that, he just called the article misleading.”
KATC has filed several public records requests with LCG for documents connected to Bruno’s loan.
LCG responded saying they’ve sent that request to their attorney.