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Legislative auditor: Problems with Pine Prairie ticket handling - KATC.com | Continuous News Coverage | Acadiana-Lafayette

Legislative auditor: Problems with Pine Prairie ticket handling

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The Louisiana Legislative Auditor did an investigation of the Village of Pine Prairie and found several problems with the way traffic fines were handled. The auditor also found that Pine Prairie is a town, not a village. 

The investigative audit, which was released Monday, listed the following issues: 

Traffic Citation Payments Not Deposited: Records indicate that the Village of Pine Prairie (Village) received at least $950 in traffic fines that were not deposited into the Village’s bank account between March 3, 2017 and May 10, 2017. Village Police Clerk Mona Norton was responsible for receiving, recording, processing, and depositing traffic fines during this time. Our comparison of Village records to records obtained from individuals who paid traffic fines in person at the Village hall indicate that Ms. Norton failed to record and deposit all cash received and altered public records to conceal cash amounts collected but not deposited.

Improper Handling of Traffic Citations and Fines: Village records indicate that Ms. Norton improperly reduced or altered traffic citations without proper authority and/or authorization between January 1, 2016 and June 26, 2017. During this period, Ms. Norton regularly reduced moving violations to nonmoving violations and improperly adjusted the amounts owed by persons receiving citations in possible violation of state law.

Improper Handling of Suspended License Citations: The Village issued 58 citations for driving under suspension but failed to follow the state law in handling these individuals.

Municipality Improperly Classified as a Village: The Village appears to be improperly classified as a village under the provisions of the Lawrason Act. Because the Village has 1,610 inhabitants, state law requires the Board to adopt a resolution requesting the governor to change its classification to the appropriate classification based on the Village’s current population.

In response, the mayor and mayor pro-tem of Pine Prairie said they are working with the District Attorney and their own attorney to address the missing funds. They also say they're working to create and implement policies that will prevent these infractions from occurring in the future. 

Norton is now facing charges after allegedly mishandling traffic fines. The Evangeline Parish Sheriff's Office arrested Mona Norton on charges of theft. She is accused of not depositing $950 in money collected from traffic fines. 

During her arraignment, she pleaded not guilty to the charges. Her arrest is prompting a change in how the department processes fees.

"I don't know how that's going to all play out but I have no idea where that money is, " Mayor Quint West said about the unaccounted funds. "I assume if she's (Norton) found guilty she would have to pay restitution." 

West says Norton was the only person who handled those fines. 

"What the auditors were saying was that Mrs.Norton took it upon herself to reduce some tickets without my notification," West said. 

"She was the only one who knew anything about that system so now we're going to train about probably 3 or 4 people." 

Since the audit and Norton's arrest, the mayor says there are now procedures in place

"Right now when we collect a traffic fine, we will fill out a receipt from a receipt book," West said. "The person who's paying the fine looks at the receipt and signs right below the amount from what they're paying. Not only do they keep a copy at the office, but I come in and make a copy of everything in the receipt book. " 

He added, "We're also using multiple signatures. Before it was just one person , but now we're using multiple signatures. " 

Mayor West also disputes claims that Pine Prairie is considered a town. West believes some prisoners were counted in the numbers when the census was done. 
     
The mayor is researching the numbers and says if Pine Prairie is indeed a town, more town officials will have to be elected. 

If you'd like to read the audit for yourself, including the village's responses please see below: 

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