Ferriday Town Hall locked as auditors review finances

Published 11:38 pm Wednesday, March 5, 2008

FERRIDAY — Representatives from the state auditor’s office reportedly reviewed Ferriday finances behind lock and key Wednesday.

Auditors, alongside representatives from the Attorney General’s Office, spent several hours inside Town Hall while spectators and passers by wondered what was happening.

In the auditor’s routine review of financial statements and audit report earlier this year, they saw in the Town of Ferriday’s financial statements that their water system was losing money, Director of Advisory Services for the Legislative Auditor’s office Joy Irwin said.

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“Usually the water system makes money and transfers funds to the general fund, instead of the opposite,” she said.

The auditor’s office is looking at ways to advise the town how to make up the money it is losing, Irwin said. Wednesday’s work was not an audit, she said.

The commotion Wednesday is nothing to be worried about, though, Mayor Gene Allen said. In fact, he suspects the timing of the visit was politically motivated.

Allen is in a runoff for his seat Saturday.

“This is politically motivated,” he said. “They have known about this for two months, so why was the time to do this two or three days before the election?”

Town hall doors were locked during the visit because the town could not accept any new water payments into the system while the attorney general’s office was downloading information from the town’s computers, Allen said.

The attorney general’s office was only present at the town hall at the behest of the legislative auditor’s office to provide technical computer assistance, Public Information Officer for the Attorney General’s office Tammi Arender Herring said.

No one should draw any conclusions about the presence of agents of the attorney general’s office other than that they provided assistance, Herring said.

“The attorney general routinely provides this assistance at the request of various state agencies,” Herring said.

Problems with the financial reports included bills that had not been paid and people who may have received credit for their water bills, Allen said.

At town hall Wednesday, witnesses on the scene said they saw computers being carried from the building, but Allen denied those reports.

“(The attorney general’s office) downloaded our information onto their computers,” Allen said. “None of our computers left the building.”

Irwin said she had been told by an assistant computers had been taken, but she had not seen it with her own eyes.

“If the attorney general’s office did take the computers, I don’t know what they’re going to do with them when they get to Baton Rouge,” Irwin said.