On Monday during the Work Session of the Caddo Parish Commission, six Commissioners made a bold statement by protesting Commissioner Mike Middleton’s Resolution that would have suspended funding for all Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Caddo Parish. Commissioners Jerald Bowman, Lynn Cawthorne, Jackson, Louis Johnson, Lyndon Johnson, and Stormy Gage-Watts (president), all Democrats, left after considering all other matters before the commission. Left on the agenda was one item that would strip funding from organizations such as Caddo Council Aging’s Meals on Wheels Program, MLK Pharmacy, Holy Angels, the Providence House, Shreveport Regional Arts Council, Shreveport Green, Volunteers for Youth Justice, Shreveport Chamber of Commerce, North Louisiana Economic Partnership, BioMedical Research Foundation, and Shreveport African American Chamber of Commerce to name a few. Middleton has announced he will not seek re-election and will not have to deal with the unintended consequences and chaos if these organizations do not receive funding.
Commissioner Middleton did not follow the normal process of placing the legislation in the committee and did not meet the NGO Committee Chair prior to placing the item on the work session agenda. The Commission utilizes the Committee process to discuss legislation particularly when the legislation affects so many aspects of Caddo Parish. “This is an insult to the nonprofits working in our community and the organizations who are working on economic development. They help our seniors get a hot meal and help individuals who have fallen on hard times” said Commissioner Lyndon B. Johnson via a Facebook post.
The Caddo Commission authorized performance audits in 2017 in order to ensure transparency and accountability within the Parish. Prior to 2017 the Parish only conducted annual operating fiscal audits as required by law. The performance audits performed found NO WRONGDOING with NGOs who receive funding. The auditors did make several recommendations to the Commission and Parish Administration to help strengthen their program and decrease the potential risk for misuse. “Instead of Middleton working with the NGO Committee to enact the recommendations of the auditors, he wants to strip funding from organizations that care for battered women, disabled adults, seniors who depend on Meals on Wheels, and children who have been victims of sex trafficking,” said Commissioner Steven Jackson. "This this type of political theater doesn’t deserve time or attention. I'm more interested in ways to enact the recommendations of the audit and not attack these organizations as if someone has done something wrong."
In an attempt to make Commissioner Middleton look like a victim, some conservative talk radio shows with the help of disbarred attorney John E Settle (arrested early this year for soliciting prostitutes and previously arrested for DWI) attempted to make the six Commissioners look as if they had abandoned their duties. However, Commission President Stormy Gage-Watts took them to task and questioned their moral integrity. During an interview Commissioner Gage-Watts noted, “We have an obligation to do the business of the parish and leave when we are done." This is not the first time Middleton has proposed controversial legislation. In 2017 he proposed placing a “pet tax” on every pet owner in Caddo Parish. This effort was abandoned by Middleton after citizen outcry that lead to defeat of several Parish renewals. “We have to care for people who are victims of domestic violence and seniors who depend on that hot meal. Our meetings are not the time and place to play games when lives are at stake.” said Commissioner Gage-Watts.