NEW ORLEANS – Trumpeter Irvin Mayfield charged the city’s public library charity more than $18,000 to stay five nights at a hotel in New York’s Central Park in July 2012, racking up huge fees for mini-bar liquor, limo rides and hotel meals, including a single breakfast costing more than $1,400, according to invoices provided by the New Orleans Public Library Foundation.
Invoices from the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Central Park were discovered when the Library Foundation’s new accountants went over disjointed records left from when Mayfield and his business partner, Ronald Markham, served as consecutive presidents of the Library Foundation board.
“There is no evidence -- no evidence -- that the visit was in any way tied to the New Orleans Public Library Foundation,” said current Library Foundation President Bob Brown. “And therefore, that money, in our view, is collectible.”
Brown took over as foundation president in May 2015 after WWL-TV exposed more than $1 million in library donations Mayfield and Markham directed to their New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, where they each made six-figure salaries.
The Jazz Orchestra finally agreed formally last month to pay back $1.1 million over five years, but only $483,000 in cash and the remainder in in-kind contributions such as benefit concerts.
This month, WWL-TV exposed another $150,000 Mayfield’s Library Foundation paid to another nonprofit, Youth Rescue Initiative, where he served as a board member. Brown said the Library Foundation is demanding that money is repaid as well, but the Jazz Orchestra considers the “matter concluded.”
The invoices for the July 2012 trip to New York City are yet another additional amount the Library Foundation is trying to recover, and this time from Mayfield personally.
The invoices from the Ritz-Carlton were addressed to Mayfield at his home and list his company as “New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.” Brown said the Library Foundation was the one stuck paying the charges, which included $2,820 for just six rides with Paris Limo service and $872 for five room-service meals.
Brown said he was particularly shocked by the $1,435 for a single breakfast at the hotel’s Star Lounge, which offers a pricey but not unreasonable menu.
“It would obviously be a charge that might make sense if it were a breakfast for say, 70 people, or 100 people,” Brown said.
In fact, five days of breakfast between July 26 and July 30 cost library donors more than $2,200, according to the invoices.
The invoices only indicate Mayfield was accompanied by one person -- Paul Washington. Brown said Washington was Mayfield’s personal assistant at the time and never a Library Foundation employee. Washington got a separate room for four nights at $801 a night.
The invoices say they spent $402 for drinks and chips from the mini-bar, or “honor bar,” where a single charge for Johnny Walker Blue Label and Woodford Reserve totaled $165, according to the invoice.
“I can think of no case in which that would be appropriate,” Brown said, when asked about charging the Library Foundation for alcohol.
Brown said Mayfield took a separate trip to New York in December 2012, but that time he was accompanied by two Library Foundation staffers and emails describe him holding meetings with potential library donors. Brown said the current Library Foundation is not contesting those charges.
Mayfield also racked up significant charges on a Library Foundation credit card over his years on the board, from 2008 to 2015, Brown said. But he called the policies governing the card’s use “unclear to nonexistent,” and therefore there is no basis for challenging any of the charges.
WWL-TV has repeatedly asked Mayfield for interviews over the last 14 months about the various library payments directed to his orchestra, but he has never granted one. The station asked again Tuesday, emailing questions to Mayfield and his assistant about the reason for the trip and about specific charges on the invoices. There was no response.
Brown said the new Library Foundation board mailed a demand letter about six months ago to Mayfield personally, asking him to repay all $18,713 on the Ritz-Carlton invoices.
Brown said the demand letter was returned to the Library Foundation offices, unopened. So, after consulting with the Library Foundation’s attorneys, the new board members are now resubmitting the demand, he said.
“I want to emphasize the word ‘new,’” Brown said, referring to the board that took over last summer after WWL-TV’s stories prompted a spate of resignations. “This is not the board that was in place when these transactions took place.”
A criminal investigation is intensifying, with several people connected to the Library Foundation confirming to WWL-TV that they have been questioned recently by federal investigators.