Charges likely in wake of audit

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 13, 2000

FERRIDAY, La. – Charges of theft and malfeasance could be filed in a couple of days against two former clerks accused of stealing almost $118,000 from the Town of Ferriday, said an official with the District Attorney’s Office.

&uot;We’ve got enough here to go with criminal charges&uot; against ex-Town Clerk Ida Johnson Tolliver and ex-Water Clerk Kathy Green,&160;District Director Paul Scott said of a report Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle made public Monday.

Kyle’s report said Tolliver and Green admitted to taking $90,947 in cash the town received from July 1998 through February 2000 for utility services and $23,980 received for 1998 property taxes for their use instead of depositing it in the town’s bank accounts.

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The report said Green and Tolliver credited their utility accounts and the account of Green’s sister, Lucille Wells, $2,895 even though the town did not receive the payments. Neither Tolliver nor Green could be reached for comment.

Kyle’s report states Tolliver and Green may have committed conspiracy, theft, forgery, filing false public records and malfeasance in office. The D.A.’s Office will likely pursue charges of theft or malfeasance against the two, Scott said. Theft carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and/or $3,000; the highest penalty for malfeasance is five years and/or $5,000.

&uot;That’s an awful lot of money,&uot; said Billy Rucker, Town Council finance chairman, referring to the alleged theft. Rucker had not seen the report Monday afternoon.

Mayor Odeal Montgomery would not return calls, but in a written response to Kyle’s report, she called the findings &uot;appalling.&uot; She noted that Green was fired Feb. 23 and Tolliver was fired Feb. 29 after confessing to mishandling funds.

The town will put policies and procedures in place to make sure all funds are properly deposited, Montgomery said. She added that the town has surety bonds of $50,000 on both Tolliver and Green and that the council will meet to decide on restitution. The council’s next meeting is set for March 21.

When asked how the funds could be missing without town officials noticing, Rucker said, &uot;it was a really good in-house cover-up between (Green and Tolliver) … an elaborate scheme.

&uot;The average lay person wouldn’t have caught it, and neither would Myles (Hopkins, the town’s CPA, who would not comment), because he’s not trained to recognize that.&uot; He added that Green and Tolliver &uot;were the only two people in City Hall handling the money … and that made for double trouble.&uot;

Actually, Hopkins determined in January that town deposits were short at least $21,000 and called Kyle’s office to investigate. An investigation, including interviews with town officials and employees and reviews of town documents, revealed that $114,927 was not deposited in the town’s accounts.

That is in addition to $2,895 credited to the utility accounts of Tolliver, Green and Wells.

Tolliver and Green concealed the alleged theft by substituting checks received by the town for cash within the deposits and by creating two posting reports, one reflecting substituted checks and another attached to daily deposits filed in the Town Clerk’s office, the report said.

&uot;Ms. Green further stated that she destroyed the posting reports that reflected the substituted checks,&uot; the report added. &uot;Ms. Green and Ms. Tolliver stated that they split the cash proceeds evenly and used the money for their own personal benefit.&uot;

Kyle said Monday that this is not the end of his probes into Ferriday’s finances.

He said the town’s tax records for 1999 are being reviewed his office to see if additional money may be missing. If necessary, those findings will be addressed in a later report.