POSTED: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - 6:01pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - 6:29pm
East Baton Rouge Parish (NBC33) — With around $73,000 to spend at their discretion, some metro-council members are using those dollars to sponsor charitable give-aways, while others have questioned whether it is the right way to spend tax-payer dollars.
"I mean my heart certainly goes out to these people and if my fellow council members want to have some of these events, I would be glad to give them personal money for it. I would be glad to cut them a check and I’ll get other people to cut them a check. That’s how you do it, you raise the money and then you spend it," explained Councilman John Delgado.
Councilwoman Tara Wicker has spent over $3,000 in the last two years on toys for Christmas giveaways to under-privileged children. She said she sees no issue in spending money at her disposal, on children who could benefit the most from it.
“When you put that nugget into that child, the return on that child making the decision to stay in school as opposed to out on the street corner, you can't measure that investment," explained Wicker.
Wicker then went on to cite ways in which other council members had spent their funds, citing that John Delgado did spend several thousand dollars of his discretionary money on updating the technology and furniture for his council office when he took the position. It was something he said needed to be done to keep up with constituents and better meet their needs, but an expenditure Wicker cited when questioned about her charitable spending.
Councilman John Delgado said he's just asking for a little more oversight when spending the public's money.
"We have to maintain order and if we're going to go ahead and be charitable and Christian as well, again I say we do it with our own money," Delgado said.
Wicker explained that the purpose of charitable give-aways is often two-fold. She said it often links up community members with other opportunities and service providers that they can benefit from, but which they may not have been aware of.
"To think that that's a waste of money, I would challenge them to come out to some of the events, look in to the eyes of the children and look in to the eyes of those family members. And look at the activities outside of just the giveaway that's actually changing the lives of the people in this community," said Wicker.
Wicker has said that she has checked about the validity of charitable giving with the parish attorney’s office and has not been told it is against the rules of the discretionary funds.