Legislative Auditor finds additional concerns in Village of Clarence

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In January 2019, Billy Joe Harrington, District Attorney for the 10th Judicial District of Louisiana, contacted the Louisiana Legislative Auditor (LLA) concerning complaints about the Village of Clarence’s operations.

This audit was initiated to determine the validity of those complaints. In addition, the Village has not submitted the annual review of its financial statements to the LLA for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2017, and was recommended for fiscal administration Jan. 7.

(See related story: State’s money troubles slowed take over of local governments in the Thursday print edition or click the E-Edition tab above)

The June report states the investigative audit found several concerns.

•Former village clerk Jacquetta Grayson received a $5,000 check from the Village. The report states former Mayor Tommy Evans told investigators Grayson was paid for severance pay and unused leave. State law does not provide for severance payments and although Grayson was paid a full-time salary from May-December 2018, her time cards showed she did not record enough hours to accrue leave. Grayson negotiated the check authorized by Evans. Both may have violated state law.

Clarence Mayor Tommy Evans is the subject of an Attorney General’s opinion

•Evans also took possession of the Village’s trailer before he resigned and failed to return it. Investigators located the trailer at Evans’ property in Winn Parish Feb. 14. By retaining Village equipment after his resignation, Evans may have violated state law.

•In May 2018, the Village contracted with Grayson within two years of her termination of employment in possible violation of the state’s ethics law. •From March to November 2018, the Village paid former Mayor Evans’ brother $375 for picking up and delivering commodities. By contracting with an immediate family member, Evans may have violated state ethics law.

•From September-November 2018, the Village improperly spent $10,658 from its utility customer deposit account to pay bills. Customer deposits received by the Village are held as security for utility services and are to be refunded to the customer upon termination of services These funds are restricted from use by the Village to pay bills. By using customer funds to pay for outstanding obligations, Village management may have violated state law.

•State law requires the mayor and board of aldermen to hold not less than one regular meeting per month as fixed by ordinance. Records show the Village held 14 meetings for the 30 months between July 2016-December 2018.

•The Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) requires employers to file quarterly wage reports to administer the state unemployment insurance program. According to LWC, the Village has not reported wages since the first quarter of 2016.