Ex-town clerk agrees to pay Ridgecrest $2,290

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 31, 2001

RIDGECREST, La. – An ex-town clerk who resigned in late March amid allegations she took town money for her own use has agreed to pay $2,290 to the Town of Ridgecrest, an official with the District Attorney’s Office said Monday.

As part of the agreement with the District Attorney Office, Pauline Palmer will serve two years’ probation, said District Director Paul Scott. Palmer could not be reached for comment Monday.

&uot;This (agreement) was done because she cooperated with the D.A.’s Office and paid all the monies owed to the town,&uot;&160;Scott said. &uot;And this way, the town gets its money in timely manner. Otherwise, just getting it through the trial process could take one to one-and-a-half years.&uot;

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Ridgecrest Mayor Guy Lain said officials in the small Concordia Parish town will be glad to get the money, which Scott said will be paid this week.

&uot;That goes without saying,&uot;&160;Lain said. &uot;It is greatly needed, especially since we have such a small budget – and it will be put to good use. … And as far as any criminal charges, we’ve left the handling of that up to the D.A.’s Office.&uot;

If the matter had gone to trial, Palmer could have been charged with malfeasance in office and unauthorized use of a movable (vehicle) and violating Article 7, Section 14 of the state constitution, which prohibits loans from public funds, according to an auditor’s report.

A report released in March by the Legislative Auditor’s Office alleged that Palmer took at least $1,840 in town funds for her own use during a period of two years.

The report said Palmer, who had served as town clerk for four years, had used the money to make a personal purchase, used petty cash for personal purposes and wrote herself checks she was not entitled to from town funds.

Auditors also could not account for $957 in petty cash. 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.

The report also said 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 that 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.

Palmer repaid the town $195 in 1999 and $20 in 2000.

Palmer issued payroll checks to herself in advance 71 times and claimed overtime on 70 of those occasions but did not document hours worked, according to the report.

The report also stated that in December 1998, former Mayor David Cobb borrowed $92 from the town’s petty cash. Cobb repaid the amount before the auditor’s report was released, and the District Attorney’s Office decided not to prosecute, Scott said.