Former Ridgecrest town clerk pleads to charges

Published 12:14am Thursday, March 28, 2013

VIDALIA — Former Ridgecrest Town Clerk Dana DeLaughter was sentenced to pay $58,544 Wednesday in restitution to the town after she pleaded guilty to seven counts including malfeasance in office and theft of town funds.

Seventh Judicial District Court Judge Glen Strong sentenced DeLaughter Monday to a 15-year suspended prison sentence, five years of probation and $3,500 in fines for felony theft, three counts of malfeasance in office, false accounting, filing false records and misdemeanor theft.

A trial for DeLaughter and former mayor Kevin Graham, who is also accused of similar charges, was scheduled to start Monday, but District Attorney Brad Burget said it was delayed when DeLaughter’s attorney mentioned she might be willing to enter a plea.

“I’m happy with the plea, but I felt and still feel that incarceration was the appropriate sentence,” Burget said. “She’s not an elected official, but she is a public official who is in charge of the public’s money and who violated the public’s trust.

“But I respect the judge’s decision.”

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.

A grand jury indicted DeLaughter on seven charges and Graham on eight charges in June.

In early November, Graham resigned and DeLaughter was placed on administrative leave before being terminated by the board of aldermen in January.

Graham is charged with four counts of malfeasance in office, false accounting, filing false public record, theft greater than $500 and unauthorized use of a movable.

Burget said Graham’s trial is scheduled May 13.

  • suzee981

    What a message to send: Steal town funds and get a slap on the wrist!

  • Conutte Bantor

    If Burget thought she should have gotten jail time he should have rejected the plea. Plea deals are just an out for a weak case or a lazy DA.

  • Anonymous

    You are so right about that!! The only way the judge gets to hear a plea deal is if the DA takes it to the court room and recommends it!