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State-appointed auditor may take over Clayton finances

 

CLAYTON, La. — The Village of Clayton could have a state-appointed fiscal auditor take over its operations before the end of November to manage financial struggles and address clean water issues, a State Legislative Auditor’s Office representative said.

Tom Cole, first assistant legislative auditor with the State Legislative Auditor’s Office, attended a fiscal review committee hearing on Clayton the week of Oct. 17.

Cole said a court hearing could come in as little as 30 days to determine if Clayton needs a fiscal auditor to help the village meet its fiscal responsibilities. He also said the auditor would have full authority but could still work alongside village leaders.

“The town can’t meet its fiscal responsibilities and needs the assistance of a third party,” Cole said. “That person is operating under the authority of the court and will basically run the Village of Clayton to get it on more stable financial ground. The mayor and council are removed from their normal authority.”

Residents have complained of brown water as recently as two months ago in public meetings. Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a state of public health emergency Oct. 5 after JCP Management stopped providing services to Clayton due to non-payment.

Jenifer Schaye, general council for the state auditor’s office, said JCP Management has since resumed operations in Clayton.

“The governor has intervened to make sure the managing company is going to continue to run it. That’s set,” Schaye said.

Cole said the village’s inability to pay its debt is in part due to a $250,000 loan.

“The town took out a $250,000 loan with the bank that they have defaulted on and that was one of the main reasons they couldn’t keep up with their fiscal responsibilities,” Cole said. “They used it to match a grant and the rest was used for operations. They were making payments on the interest but not principal payments. The bank is willing to work with them to make payments.”

Cole said the state auditor would remain until a workable budget is set.

Clayton Mayor Josephine Washington did not return calls from The Natchez Democrat.

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