Ferriday audit questions former mayor’s actions

Published 11:13 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2009

FERRIDAY — An audit of the Town of Ferriday says former Mayor Gene Allen was improperly given funds in the final month he was in office.

Among the audit’s recommendations were that the town try to recollect funds totaling $3,739.16 paid to Allen and $19,525 paid to a local church.

The funds paid to Allen include $2,917 in vacation pay he collected on his last day in office and $822.16 in reimbursements for expenses he incurred during a trip to Las Vegas to see the Miss Black America pageant, in which Ferriday native and Alderman Gloria Lloyd’s daughter Tiffany Lloyd was participating.

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The audit states that the auditors believe vacation pay for elected officials is a violation of state law, but it does not cite a specific statute.

The audit notes that the board of aldermen approved the reimbursement for the Las Vegas trip, but it states that it was in violation of a statute in the Louisiana Constitution.

The payment to the church was done because town sewer lines had backed up and damaged the building, but the audit states that the town’s insurance company determined the town was not liable for the damage.

The audit’s recommendation is that the town seek compensation from either the insurance company or the church, depending on who is deemed the responsible party.

The town does not necessarily have to pursue legal action to collect money owed it, Ferguson said.

“If a person agrees that he owes the money, you can make a demand for payment formally or informally, and the person can pay you and that is the end of that,” Town Attorney Anna Ferguson said.

Some of the findings of the audit about the town’s bookkeeping and billing practices have been corrected or will be corrected within the year, Mayor Glen McGlothin said.

For example, a check substitution scheme that “ may have begun in October 2004 and continued until June 30, 2008” is noted as having been corrected in the audit.

When utility customers paid their bills in cash, someone would set the cash aside. Later, when a customer would pay with a check, the person in question would use the checks to post credit for those who had paid their bill in cash, Town Clerk Gayle Cowan said.

The person involved in the alleged scheme no longer works for the town.

A number of items that are noted as “will be corrected in 2009” are related to the town’s water billing and collection system, including a finding from as far back as 2003 that notes that the town needed to place all of its utility customers in a computerized database and more recent recommendations that the town get new water meters for accurate billing.

“That will be taken care of when we put in the new water system,” McGlothin said.

The town council will meet Thursday to discuss and authorize a municipal lease with Triton Company. The lease agreement will be in part for Triton to replace all of the town’s water meters and install a new computerized billing system.

Other recommendations in the audit include that the town write off its bad debt, reconcile all of its ledgers, review procedures for fund allocation and ensure the utility clerk is the only person who conducts the utility clerk’s duties.

The auditor will be at next month’s regularly scheduled aldermen’s meeting to discuss the findings, and the town received a letter Tuesday stating it had 30 days to answer the audit, McGlothin said.

The audit of the town’s finances and financial practices for the fiscal period ending June 30, 2008, was dated Feb. 18, and was conducted by Silas Simmons.

All of the members of the board of aldermen have been given a copy of the audit, Ferguson said.

Representatives from the legislative auditor’s office could not be reached Tuesday because the office was closed in observance of Mardi Gras.