SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – City councilor John Nickelson says he was stripped of Shreveport City Council’s Audit and Finance Committee chairmanship less than one hour after requesting a legislative audit of the city’s finances.
The Dist. C representative made the request Thursday morning in the wake of allegations of problems with the city’s accounting department leveled by the city’s recently fired Controller.
“Last month the city’s interim chief financial officer unceremoniously fired the city’s controller, Ben Hebert, without notice to all Council members,” Nickelson said in a letter to Louisiana Legislative Auditor Michael Waguespack.
“Mr. Hebert, a certified public accountant and a certified fraud examiner, has made a wide range of allegations concerning incompetence and malfeasance in the Finance Department. These allegations from a former member of the city’s senior management team are serious and call into question the department’s capacity to administer public funds. They require a full, fair, and transparent investigation that only your office can provide.”
Along with the letter, Nickelson attached Hebert’s opening statement from the news conference held Monday in which he and attorney Allison Jones laid out the allegations and claimed his firing was retaliatory.
Herbert said he found major issues within the City of Shreveport’s accounting department when he assumed the Controller’s position in January of 2020. While some of those issues were resolved when he became Controller in January 2020, both others persisted. Among the ongoing issues, Hebert called out were questions about the reporting of travel expenses for Mayor Adrian Perkins.
Hebert said when he brought these issues to the attention of the city’s current Chief Financial Officer Kasey Brown, he was fired.
Jones said they would file age and race discrimination claims with the Equal Employment Commission along with whistleblower claims with the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights.
The mayor’s office has declined to comment on the allegations, citing pending litigation.
On Thursday afternoon, Nickelson shared a post on his public Facebook page saying he was stripped of his Audit and Finance Committee chairmanship exactly 33 minutes later by City Council chairman James Green, who was copied on the letter. It was a position Nickelson notes he held for three years.
“I love Shreveport,” Nickelson said in the post. “I’ve given my constituents and our city 110 percent since I was elected in 2018. But loving Shreveport isn’t enough. We all have to fight for Shreveport – and we have to do everything in our power to make sure eight smart, competent, honest people are elected to lead the city in the fall 2022 elections. Our future depends on it.”