NEW ORLEANS -- Most Carnival krewes operate behind a cloak of secrecy. These private organizations usually keep their business private, especially their financial business.
But recent discord within Bacchus is on full public display. A Facebook group called Save the Krewe of Bacchus was launched two weeks ago.
"It is eye-opening because it's totally atypical. I don't know of any other example like that,” said Carnival historian Errol Laborde.
Laborde said this social media protest provides a rare glimpse into the krewe's finances. A 45 percent increase in membership dues seems to have stirred the dissent.
"It's not uncommon to see a faction develop within the krewe, saying, ‘I want to do it myself,’” Laborde said. “But I've never seen this sort of thing over finances and trying to get the information about payments. This is something that's really unusual."
Issues raised by the Facebook group include the $138,000 salary of krewe director Owen Brennan III to nearly $100,000 spent for unspecified travel and conventions. The group even makes comparisons with other super krewes, which show no money spent on travel.
"What expenses Bacchus would have for traveling out of town beyond what any other krewes would have, I'm not sure,” Laborde said.
One demand being made by the group -- a full accounting of all revenues and expenses.
As for the dissenters within the krewe, their protests were posted anonymously on Facebook, so we have no way to identify them.
Will this rift grow wider? So far, the Facebook site has 209 likes, about 15 percent of the krewe's total membership.
We just received a statement from Pip Brennan, who responded that he is "absolutely confident that the overwhelming majority of our members will agree with the board's decision."
An emergency meeting of krewe leaders is scheduled for next week.
Below is the full statement from Brennan:
"The Krewe of Bacchus is incredibly proud of our role as one of the premiere krewes in Mardi Gras that have helped make our New Orleans Carnival more famous than ever before in our nation and throughout the world. In order to continue to move forward, our Board of Directors has approved an increase in dues and a building fund assessment to lease-purchase our own den where we would store our floats. We are absolutely confident that the overwhelming majority of our members will agree with the board’s decision. If there are members of Bacchus who would prefer not to move forward with us, they have every right to resign their membership. The real point in this discussion is that for almost a half-century, Bacchus has continuously been innovative and set new standards in Mardi Gras while improving our parade and our facilities. We will continue to do so because that is best for our krewe, best for Mardi Gras and best for the great City of New Orleans."