By Kiran Chawla | WAFB | January 8, 2020
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) – When the Louisiana Assessor’s Association administers its certification classes, you are often paying for those taking the exam to stay multiple nights in a Baton Rouge hotel.
The exams are administered on Fridays at the Crowne Plaza Hotel off Constitution Avenue in Baton Rouge.
Livingston Parish Tax Assessor Jeff Taylor says the exams are important for his staffers to pass.
Because of that, he allows those taking the exam to take the short drive to Baton Rouge and stay overnight at the Crowne Plaza for multiple nights leading up to the exam.
Taylor says study sessions are held at the same hotel from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Thursday prior to the Friday exam. He says there are also study sessions held at the hotel each evening. He added there is a “comprehensive test on Friday that they are required to pass to become certified.”
“They have to pass four of these classes,” Taylor said by email. “ I require them to stay so study time is adhered to, to ensure that they pass the test and not have to retake the course.”
Over the past six years, taxpayers have paid nearly $24,000 for Taylor’s employees to stay at the Crowne Plaza where rooms run about $100 per night.
“It’s a use of public assets,” said Raphael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission, who reviewed WAFB’s findings. “That seems a little on the extravagant side,” he added.
While seemingly extravagant, Goyeneche believes there might be a legitimate reason for the hotel stays.
“If these employees have to have this certification every year and they have small children in their home, that could be something that would be permissible, but you have to take a look at it on a case-by-case basis,” Goyeneche said.
Taylor is not alone in allowing his employees, who live just one parish away, to stay overnight at the Crowne Plaza.
Ascension Parish Assessor Mert Smiley allows his employees who are taking the exam to stay at the Crowne Plaza for one night, on the night prior to the exam.
East Baton Rouge Parish Tax Assessor Brian Wilson says his employees are not allowed to stay overnight at the hotel.