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Shreveport City Marshal fires back at travel spending criticism - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Shreveport City Marshal fires back at travel spending criticism

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SHREVEPORT, La -

Is it continuing education or continuing extravagance?

Shreveport City Marshal Charlie Caldwell and some of his deputies have racked up another whopper of a travel bill with funds from his office. But Caldwell says it's money well spent to attend law enforcement conferences and keep his personnel up to speed.

Caldwell took six of his deputies to Destin, Florida, staying at The Crescent Condominiums on the beachfront the first week of June.

According to Caldwell's expense report, most of the deputies stayed in two-bedroom gulf front condos, each going for more than $2,900 for the week. Two three- bedroom gulf front condos also went for more than $3,700.

They had to eat. So each deputy got 600 dollars for the week. Caldwell's appetite was more expensive -- $950.

Add in fees and registration for two conferences and you get a grand total of $30,786.10

"I'm all about continuing education," Caldwell said as he defended the expense.

He says the money comes out of his discretionary funds, which are raised through fines and fees paid by those who go through the city court system.

"I don't think 30-grand is a lot of money to spend on people's education, or to educate my deputies," Caldwell added. "You've got to have competent people working for you. We don't want a bunch of dummies running this city."

This month's trip to Destin is the latest in a series of trips that Caldwell has taken, along with his deputies. Such expenses had already added up to more than $100,000 since Caldwell first took office in 2009.

"Marshal Caldwell has a history of extravagant spending," says attorney and watchdog John Settle.

Settle has chronicled Caldwell's travels and other spending on the website forward-now.com.

"The average man on the street knows that these kind of expenses for room and board are over the top, and really I think reflect poorly on Marshal Caldwell and his office," Settle says.

Caldwell says he has about 30 deputies. He says he rotates them year to year on the travels to conferences in Destin and other locales.

As for the scrutiny of his travel costs, Caldwell calls them "a political attack."

But, says John Settle, "This will be an issue in his upcoming campaign. It's an issue that needs to be dealt with."

One man, retired Shreveport Police Lt. Don Otis has already said he'll run against Caldwell next year. Otis says he knows of at least two other candidates who may also run, including a former deputy from the marshal's office.

Caldwell complains he's being singled out in this story since other public officials all across the state and the country attend such professional conferences. Caldwell did comply with our public records request in less than 24 hours.

However, state legislative audits have turned up questions over financial practices at the marshal's office. Tops among them -- possible violations of the state constitution in 2010 and 2011 over take-home vehicles by most of the office staff, with all expenses paid by the office, and with no mileage logs. The auditor said those vehicles were not reported on the employees' W-2 forms to the IRS.

Caldwell says all of his deputies have take home vehicles and that they're used "just like all other" law enforcement agencies.

The state audit report for last year is due to come back soon.

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