Vidalia audit cites misappropriation of funds

Published 12:10 am Saturday, December 28, 2019

VIDALIA — A Louisiana Legislative Auditors’ report for the Town of Vidalia ending June 30, 2019, shows that $13,656 had been misappropriated from the town’s utility collections.

The most recent audit issued in early December shows two findings for the town.

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft said an employee who handled the town’s financials had unlawfully taken the money in 2018. The incident was discovered more than a year ago and the money has since been returned to the account, Craft said.

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“We found it within a few months of it happening and took action immediately,” Craft said. “The employee no longer works for the Town of Vidalia.” 

Craft said the identity of the employee could not be released until charges are made.

“It’s been turned over to the legislative auditor and to the district attorney’s office,” Craft said.

After the incident, Craft said the city changed the way billing and payments are made by splitting the responsibilities between multiple people. New cameras were also installed so that a similar situation could not happen again, Craft said.

Craft said the 2018-2019 auditor’s report was nearly clean otherwise, with only one other finding that said deposits from city court fines should be made more frequently.

The report stated that some deposits were made more than 20 days from the date the fines were received and should be made at least once a week.

“It was a great audit and the town continues to get in better and better shape each year,” Craft said.

The town has also been taken off the Louisiana Auditor’s list of fiscally distressed municipalities. Craft and other Vidalia officials refuted the report when it was first issued in November.

Vidalia accountant Debra Moak said the legislative auditor’s list in November only considered Vidalia’s general fund balance through the end of the fiscal year ending in 2018 and not the town’s combined revenue over total expenses — which Moak said would have placed the town in the positive by more than $2 million.

According to the auditor’s office, the decision to take the town off the list was based on improvements in financial operations between 2018 and 2019.