Former Concordia sheriff denies wrongdoing regarding audit report

Published 12:06 am Saturday, February 16, 2013

VIDALIA — Former Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell denies any wrongdoing regarding an audit released this week that states he charged $1,111 to local restaurants that cannot be accounted for and also violated the state’s nepotism law.

The audit for the 2011-2012 year was prepared by Silas Simmons, a certified public accounting and consulting firm in Natchez, and was published on the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s website Monday.

The schedule of findings within the audit report stated the agency identified “certain deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting that we consider to be material weakness.”

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In reference to internal control and compliance material to financial statements, the report stated 54 credit card purchases totaling $4,272 did no have proper documentation supporting the transactions.

“The former sheriff was responsible for 27 of the purchases for $1,111 charged to local restaurants,” the report stated. “The business purpose and the names of those who participated in the meals were not recorded on the credit card receipts.”

Meals purchased at local restaurants, the report stated, are generally not the same as purchasing meals while traveling out of town, and any purchases made without a valid business purpose may be a violation of the Louisiana Constitution.

Maxwell said Friday that he disagrees with the findings in the audit report and was surprised to read the accusations.

“I’ve been doing the same thing for 20 years, turning in all my receipts and doing everything right, but they just now find all this stuff?” Maxwell said. “I’ve always been a stickler for receipts and turned all of them in, so I have an issue with what they’re saying there.”

Audit reports from the past five years did not show any findings relating to credit card purchases. The only consistent finding in those reports was a delay in filing the report with the Legislative Auditor on time.

Another deficiency in internal control relates to Maxwell’s administration violating the state’s nepotism law when Maxwell employed his daughter-in-law, Jennifer Maxwell, who has since died.

Maxwell said Jennifer was employed with the department before she married his son, Jason.

The report states Maxwell’s administration gave Jennifer two pay increases while she was on sick leave.

“These increases in pay were given during a time period in which other employees of the (CPSO) apparently were not considered for pay increases,” the report stated.

Maxwell said the pay increases given to his daughter-in-law were also given to other department supervisors across the administration.

“If you’re an employee, you’re an employee, and just because you’re on sick leave doesn’t mean you’re not an employee,” Maxwell said. “I was just bringing her salary up to align with everyone else who was a department supervisor.”

Overall, Maxwell said he felt wronged by the findings in the report.

“I disagree with all of it, and some of the stuff in there is just truly unbelievable,” Maxwell said. “But at the end of the day, that’s just their opinion.

“I just wish they would have approached me to discuss some of their findings.”

Maxwell’s last day in office was June 29, 2012, after serving 22 years as sheriff.

Current Sheriff Kenneth Hedrick took over the department on July 1, and said his only concern is leading his administration and serving the people of Concordia Parish.

“I’ve gone to great lengths to make sure nothing like that happens in my administration, and we’re going to keep it that way,” Hedrick said. “I can only account for what’s going on in my administration, and everything we do is in the public’s eye and open for review.”

Hedrick said some of the steps taken to ensure financial matters are handled properly includes keeping the lines of communication open between administrative assistant Donna Jones and the auditors.

“Every penny that gets spent in this office goes through me first, then her and other people we have in the office,” Hedrick said. “We’re here to serve the people of this parish, and that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”

Before taking office in July, Hedrick said he also communicated with state officials to ensure that having his son, David Hedrick, on staff wasn’t a problem.

“Because he was already employed with the CPSO and I didn’t give him a new title or raise, they said it was perfectly fine,” Hedrick said. “Those are all things we looked at before stepping foot into this office.”

David serves as CPSO chief deputy.