Fox 8 investigation leads to change in Louisiana law

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars were given to a non-profit that no longer exists, but since our investigation aired, lawmakers made a move to fix that.

A Fox 8 investigation uncovered more than 350-thousand dollars from state gambling revenue sitting in a fund allocated for the non-profit group the New Orleans Urban Tourism and Hospitality Training in Economic Development Foundation. But, that group is now defunct and hasn't been operating since 2012.

State Treasurer John Kennedy said that Fox 8's investigation spurred change.

"We notified the senate finance committee once Fox 8 brought it to our attention," Kennedy said. "We recommended the finance committee fix it, the finance committee fixed it, I think the house will go along, I just can't imagine that it will change," said Kennedy.

Since our investigation aired, the senate finance committee passed an amendment that will transfer those tax dollars to the New Orleans Council on Aging.

"I would like to thank you for the investigation," said Executive Director of the New Orleans Council on Aging, Howard Rodgers.  "There are organizations out there who are not delivering the services that they say that they are going to deliver to the public, it's great that you can come along and find where there's waste and hopefully we'll be able to take these negatives and turn them into some positives and help some seniors here in Orleans Parish."

Our investigation also revealed that despite the fact that the Urban Tourism Foundation was no longer functioning their fund will get another 100-thousand this August; in a time when Louisiana faces its biggest budget crisis ever. The reason? According to state law that governs gaming fees and taxes a portion of that money "shall be deposited in and credited to the New Orleans Urban Tourism and Hospitality Training in Economic Development Foundation Fund. "

"Now, we still have the problem of the money being dedicated every year, the 100-thousand, we'll have to fix that by statute, now, that everybody is aware of the problem, I think we could do that pretty easily next legislative session," Kennedy said.

Money, the New Orleans Council on Aging says it could desperately use, especially considering they had to lay off 5 employees last year because of budget cuts. They say this additional funding will help them feed seniors and keep them in their homes longer.

"We still have this tremendous need in Orleans Parish especially with two of the programs that we operate, meals on wheels, we have 1500 individuals for that and we also have individuals on a waiting list for our homemaker services," Rodgers said.

The senate finance committee adopted that amendment to transfer more than 350-thousand dollars to the New Orleans Council on Aging unanimously to make it part of the budget. It will now go before the conference committee.

We did reached out to the Urban Tourism Foundation for our investigation, but the former board president sent us a letter saying once the group decided it no longer would operate their training program it asked for a reallocation of its money to Medicaid.

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