Legislative Auditor’s Office releases 50-page report of it’s Ferriday findings

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 19, 2001

FERRIDAY, La. -A 50-page report released Monday by the Legislative Auditor’s Office details the findings of its months-long investigation of the Ferriday Housing Authority.

Specifically, the report -including reproductions of several receipts and checks Kyle’s office considers questionable -alleges that from October 1996 through July 2000, Bell used $52,843 of public funds to pay for personal expenses.

According to the report, that included $16,960 used to pay Bell’s personal credit card charges. Items listed included jewelry; men’s, women’s and children’s clothing; airline and bus tickets; videos; adult online services; sporting goods and equipment; household items; gift; and health food.

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In a written response included as part of the report, Bell denies that the authority ever paid for unauthorized credit card expenses for him.

The report stated that public funds Bell spent $4,470 for a heating system, $3,580 for siding, $1,920 for flooring, $780 for termite treatments and $156 for a water filtering system for his house; $10,892 for two vehicles, a boat and vehicle insurance and repairs; and $841 for his medical expenses.

Bell denies most of the expenditures were paid with public funds. But he said the authority was billed for the heating system by mistake and that the water filtering system was installed at the authority’s maintenance building.

The report also alleges that:

4From April 1997 through January 2000, Bell converted $28,439 of public funds to money orders and cashier’s checks. &uot;We don’t know what happened to that money, but believe it was for (Bell’s) personal gain,&uot;&160;Kyle said.

4Bell used $6,427 to buy a stereo and entertainment system that was not found at either the Housing Authority or the nonprofit Community Housing Development Organization of Concordia.

Bell said the authority bought an entertainment system that was then destroyed by vandalism and never replaced.

The nonprofit was created to assist the Housing Authority, operates in the office of the authority and derives about 95 percent of its revenues from the authority.

Bell also said that at no time did he ever use public funds to pay personal expenses or to finance a nonprofit.

4From June 1999 through October 2000, Bell and authority employee Katina Washington failed to deposit $4,400 of public funds, including $4,000 of rental income and $400 received from redeemed tax sale property.

Bell, in his written statement, said the authority adopted a policy that all rent payments must be paid with a check or money order and, as a result, the authority received no cash payments for rent.

4From October 1997 through December 1999, Bell authorized the payment of $4,100 to individuals for work that may not have been performed or should have been performed during regular work hours.

4Bell paid two people a total of $6,528 for maintenance work. But $5,000 of this amount was deposited into the account of the nonprofit.

4Also, from July 1998 through July 2000, the nonprofit submitted false billings to the authority amounting to $42,962.

4From July 1998 through July 2000, Bell paid himself $54,463 from the nonprofit to which he was not entitled. Bell stated that while employed by the authority, he never received a salary from any other employer or organization.

4From Jan. 1, 1997, through July 31, 2000, Bell donated $18,007 in public funds to various entities in violation of Article 7, Section 14 of the Louisiana Constitution.

That allegedly included $9,997 used to pay expenses and provide cash, trophies and athletic equipment to non-for-profit corporations and local schools and to pay medical expenses of authority employees.

Bell has denied paying utilities with authority funds except for an onsite deputy at the authority’s Montgomery Square Apartments – an expense he said was OKed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – and for utility expenses incurred when he was required to live onsite himself.

He also said in the written response that payments to schools promoted the &uot;social and economic well-being of the Housing Authority’s residents.&uot;

In its report, Kyle’s office recommended that the authority’s board establish procedures to make sure expenditures are reviewed by the board before payments are made and that fees and rents are not paid with cash.

In his written response, Bell said he was not allowed enough time to respond to the charges in full.