Did the City Use Public Money to Push for Passage of Millage Renewals?
Shreveport leaders have been passing out a 16 page booklet promoting the April tax renewals on the ballot. Mayor Ollie Tyler handed me this booklet a couple of weeks ago.
But I have raised some questions about who paid for this and how much it cost. I also wondered why there was no disclosure in the booklet about who is footing the bill.
I did get this response from City Attorney William Bradford:
The tax renewal booklets were designed at no additional cost by the City’s internal staff utilizing materials and supplies already purchased by the City. Each booklet is printed “as needed” by the City’s information technology department and is distributed if and when the Mayor and City staff are requested to speak on the topic of the tax renewals. This approach to educating the public about the upcoming election was utilized to minimize costs.
Bradford added this:
"Originally, I provided legal approval of the information based on Louisiana Constitution Article 10, Section 9. It provides that 'That the support of issues involving tax referenda, shall not be prohibited.' Since that inquiry, I have amended my guidance to the Mayor to include a caveat from the election code: 'No public funds shall be used to urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate or proposition, or be appropriated to a candidate or political organization. This provision shall not prohibit the use of public funds for dissemination of factual information relative to a proposition appearing on an election ballot.' Therefore, I have requested that the last page of the booklet; which was originally approved by me and contains “vote yes”, be removed from the document."
Bradford did not give me a price tag for the booklets, nor did he tell me how many were printed. I have requested an opinion from the State Board of Ethics.
The April 28th election includes 6 property tax millage renewals.