Ridgecrest probe to be wrapped up next week

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 29, 2001

VIDALIA, La. – District attorney’s officials should know by the end of next week whether there is enough evidence to prosecute Ridgecrest’s former town clerk and ex-mayor on charges related to the borrowing of town funds.

As of Wednesday, no criminal charges had been brought against former Town Clerk Pauline Palmer or ex-Mayor David Cobb. Officials of the Seventh Judicial District Attorney’s Office are still investigating the allegations. &uot;We should be through in a week or so,&uot; said District Attorney John Johnson. &uot;We’ve still got some interviews to do. … We’ll see what we get from that and go from there.&uot;

&uot;We’re investigating to see what kinds of charges could be brought, and against who&uot; the charges would be brought, said District Director Paul Scott. He said that possible charges could include unauthorized use and malfeasance in office – possible charges also mentioned in the auditor’s report. A report the Legislative Auditor’s Office released March 20 stated that Palmer, who had served as town clerk for four years prior to her March 23 resignation, had used $1,840 in town funds to make a personal purchase.

The report also stated Palmer used petty cash for personal purposes and wrote herself checks she was not entitled to from town funds.

Auditors could not account for $957 in petty cash. Palmer repaid the town $195 in 1999 and $20 in 2000, leaving a balance of $1,625 still not paid to the town.

The report stated Palmer issued payroll checks to herself in advance 71 times, claiming undocumented overtime on 70 of those occasions. It also stated that in December 1998, Cobb borrowed $92 from the town’s petty cash.

Palmer has refused to comment on the auditor’s report. Cobb said in a recent interview that he paid a bill using town funds but repaid the money.

Through interviews of town officials and others and reviews of town records, officials of the Legislative Auditor’s office determined that Palmer borrowed $722 from the town’s petty cash.

It stated she submitted petty cash vouchers for expenses she did not incur, allowing her to keep $600 for personal use, paid herself $175 out of the town’s general fund to repair her vehicle and overpaid herself $120 for sick leave to which she was not entitled.

It also stated Palmer used the town’s charge account to buy herself a $144 air conditioner, paid herself $45 in general fund money to which she was not entitled and received a $100 expense advance but failed to supply receipts for $34 of the amount.