Grand jury indicts former officialsPublished 12:09am Thursday, June 28, 2012
VIDALIA — Former Ridgecrest Mayor Kevin Graham and Town Clerk Dana DeLaughter were arrested Wednesday afternoon, after a grand jury indicted the duo for crimes including malfeasance in office, theft of town funds greater than $1,500 and false accounting.urge
Eight “true bill” indictments were issued against Graham and seven against DeLaughter.
A “true bill” means there is sufficient evidence to justify the trial of the suspects.
The 11-member grand jury heard evidence Monday and Tuesday, but one juror was absent Wednesday morning during the indictment readings. At least nine members of the grand jury must concur in order to return an indictment.
Graham, 44, 619 E.E. Wallace Blvd., was booked into the Concordia Parish Sheriff’s Office on charges of malfeasance in office (four counts), false accounting, filing false public record, theft greater than $500 and unauthorized use of a movable.
DeLaughter, 39, 580 Mooselodge Road, was booked into CPSO on charges of theft greater than $500 (two counts), malfeasance in office (three counts), false accounting and filing false public record.
Bond was set at $75,000 for both Graham and DeLaughter.
District Attorney Brad Burget handled the Ridgecrest grand jury court proceedings and said he was pleased with the results.
“I think the grand jury did the right thing by returning those indictments,” Burget said. “I was real happy with the grand jury, because they were a really dedicated group of people.
“Now we can begin with the next step of criminal proceedings.”
Once Graham and DeLaughter are assigned to either Division A or B in the Seventh Judicial District Court, an arraignment hearing will be scheduled for both to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
An audit conducted by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor revealed that DeLaughter may have violated state law by failing to deposit $56,679 in utility payments, intentionally overstating $27,814 of utility collections to the town’s board of aldermen and issuing herself three extra payroll checks totaling $1,865.
The audit also stated that Graham used state grant funds to purchase a water pump and accessories for personal use totaling $4,055.
In early November, Graham resigned and DeLaughter was placed on administrative leave before being terminated by the board in January.
The state auditors arrived in December and newly appointed Mayor Dwayne Sikes provided them with full access to the town’s finances — including paperwork from as far back as 2008, access to the town’s computers and its two bank accounts at Concordia Bank and Delta Bank in Ferriday.
“I knew there was a lot of stuff going on in this Town Hall, but I didn’t know the extent of everything until I started digging,” Sikes said. “I’m just glad to see all of this coming to an end and for us to be able to put this behind us, so we can move Ridgecrest forward.
“We have a great board of aldermen and new administration who want to work together to do what’s best for Ridgecrest and its citizens.”