Event planners seem to no longer be wary of booking in New Orleans during the height of hurricane season. more>>
Event planners seem to no longer be wary of booking in New Orleans during the height of hurricane season. The traditionally slow months are transforming with the return of some big-name conventions. more>>
The board comes out strong in its two-page letter, writing, "The stories run have committed a great injustice to the ongoing work the trustees perform by using selective editing, misrepresentation and distortion of many facts."
The board finds fault with our first story, which showed the CEO of the Fire Pension Board, Richard Hampton, received a $70,000 raise to his current salary, $165,000 a year.
"They are making business decisions that defy logic," Metropolitan Crime Commission head Rafael Goyeneche told us during the course of our investigation.
But while the Crime Commission said the numbers don't add up, the board said many pension leaders make more than Hampton, writing, "There were at least 6 salaries that exceeded $150,000, none of which were shown in the WVUE report."
That's true. We showed what we felt were comparable examples: the heads of the state firefighters, police and City of New Orleans retirement systems. Hampton made more than them all.
The higher salaries in the pension board's letter actually reference much larger, statewide retirement systems. The head of the Teachers Retirement System of Louisiana makes $250,000; the head of the State Employees Retirement, $196,000.
But consider -- they each manage more than $10 billion in investments, while the New Orleans Fire Pension Board manages $195 million.
The heads of the statewide systems each manage about 140 employees or staff members; Richie Hampton oversees three.
And the state systems have more than 100,000 current or future retirees. The New Orleans Fire Pension Board has 1,300.
The board also said it used a salary study to calculate Hampton's raise. We requested that study. In a Sept. 25 follow-up email, Hampton wrote, "I have contacted members of the personnel committee to provide the information they collected to conduct my salary study. I hope to get this information to you ASAP."
We never received a copy of that study.
We also questioned Hampton's dual role as a board member and employee. Loyola law professor Dane Ciolino says he thinks it's a violation of the law.
But the board called that "freelance opinion", and wrote to its membership that "the State Ethics Board was duly notified" about the arrangement.
But that notification came in an annual financial disclosure filing that thousands of candidates, elected officials and board members file every year. The Ethics Board has a budget that allocates two people to review such filings.
The board also wrote, "The WVUE news report has created a very negative and unfair perception on board and fund expenditures… the majority of expenses incurred while board members were attending the fund's annual week-long educational and investment review."
The board's letter never addressed the question of alcohol purchases.
"There's no alcohol purchased under the pension fund credit card," Hampton told us during our investigation.
Even though Hampton said no, we tracked down a receipt from Muriel's that showed something different. The Fire Pension Board charged $420 for an open wine bar, $420 for an open liquor bar and $140 for unlimited beer. The bill was signed by Board President Bud Carrouche.
Alcohol paid for with public money -- that's against state law.
The board wrote, "When the costs of meals are added together, the cost per member averaged $50 per meal."
If that's true, think about this scenario. In July of 2009, the board charged a $2500 meal at Mr. John's Steakhouse. Doing the math, at $50 a person, that means 51 people attended the dinner.
But the board employs four people and has 10 board members. So who were the other 37 people who went to the dinner, eating out with public money?
In the letter, the board told members they have "always acted in the best interest of the fund's members… elected members of your board of trustees spend an average of 16 or more hours per month in meetings… no one works harder for their members than your board and your fund's professionals."
The letter doesn't directly address questionable decisions on investments made by the board. But the pension board did say its fund manager, Joe Meals, would meet with all active and retired members in the near future.
Sign up for emails from FOX 8 Live
Get news and forecasts from FOX 8 delivered to your inbox by signing up for the lists below.
For some, it may be hard to believe that nine years have passed since Hurricane Katrina made landfall and left major devastation in Louisiana and Mississippi. Most people will never forget where theymore>>
Friday marks nine years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall, causing major devastation in Louisiana and Mississippi.more>>
A cloud of locusts Clouds of insects slowed traffic Thursday in Madagascar's capitol city of Antananarivo. The island nation has been dealing with locusts for more than two years. The government announcedmore>>
While you were sleeping, the Internet never stopped. Here's what's trending today.more>>
SLIDELL, La. (AP) - As George Clooney and Sandra Bullock prepare this fall to shoot the political comedy "Our Brand Is Crisis," in New Orleans, producers are looking for locals interested in appearingmore>>
As George Clooney and Sandra Bullock prepare this fall to shoot the political comedy "Our Brand Is Crisis," in New Orleans, producers are looking for locals interested in appearing as extras in the film.more>>
A tropical wave is moving from the Caribbean into the Gulf of Mexico. The circulation is over land right now, but it is worth watching as it pushes west. It is not likely anything will develop untilmore>>
The only area worth watching at the moment is a wave currently over the Yucatan. The wave will move westward today and once over the Bay of Campeche, further development is possible.more>>
Fox 8 WVUE-TV
Louisiana Media Company, LLC.
1025 S. Jefferson Davis Parkway
New Orleans, LA 70125