Former Ridgecrest mayor enters plea on 8 counts

Published 12:09am Tuesday, August 27, 2013

VIDALIA — Former Ridgecrest Mayor Kevin Graham will serve five years of probation after pleading no contest on Aug. 15 to eight charges stemming from his time in office.

Graham pleaded no contest to four counts of malfeasance in office and one count each of false accounting, maintaining false public records, theft of goods and unauthorized use of a movable.

The plea means he accepts conviction, similar to a guilty plea, but does not admit guilt.

His sentence included five years of hard labor in a Louisiana Department of Corrections Facility plus fines, all of which was suspended upon meeting probation requirements. Graham will still be required to pay court costs.

“I think the sentence sends a very strong message that when you are an elected official you have a responsibility to be a good steward of the people’s money,” District Attorney Brad Burget said. “My goal was to hold him responsible for his actions.”

A 2012 legislative audit cited Graham and Ridgecrest Town Clerk Dana DeLaughter for several charges, including failure to deposit $56,679 in utility payments into the town’s bank account.

Both former Ridgecrest officials were indicted by a grand jury in June 2012 after the audit was released.

Delaughter pleaded guilty to seven counts, including malfeasance in office and theft of town funds, in March.

She was sentenced to 15 years in prison, which was suspended, 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 restitution hearing to determine how much money Graham is responsible for paying back to Ridgecrest has not been set. If he fails to pay restitution, Burget said Graham would serve jail time.

DeLaughter is currently responsible for the entirety of the stolen utility deposits, but Burget said her amount could be reduced during Graham’s restitution hearing.