An audit report from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor shows that the mayor and board of aldermen in Ville Platte may have received excess pay – a violation of state law.
If you’d like to read the audit for yourself, scroll down.
According to the report, Mayor Jennifer Vidrine and town aldermen received monthly vehicle allowances and per diem payments to attend monthly board meetings between July 2017 and June 2018. Those amounts totaled more than $40,000.
The report states that these allowances and payments increased respective compensation above the amount set by board ordinance and that it may be in violation of state law.
The report also states that Mayor Vidrine may have violated state law by using a city-owned vehicle for personal business. That city-owned vehicle assigned to Mayor Vidrine did not have a public license plate or a logo bearing the City’s name, in accordance with state law, according to the report.
The report states that Vidrine used the car to move her campaign signs around and to attend funerals of “constituents.” And, she was getting a car allowance from the city at the same time she was driving a city car, which also could be a violation of the Louisiana Constitution, the report states.
The investigation was launched after two calls were made to the auditor’s office, the report states:
On June 25, 2018, we received a complaint that Mayor Jennifer Vidrine receives a car allowance and uses a City of Ville Platte (City) vehicle for personal use. We received an additional complaint on September 28, 2018, that Mayor Vidrine used a City vehicle to place a campaign sign within the City limits. This audit was initiated to determine the validity of those complaints.
The report issued Monday by the Legislative Auditor’s Office was not the normal audit conducted annually by an accounting firm hired by the city. It was an investigated audit conducted by the Legislative Auditor’s Investigative Unit and it is described by that office as a “fraud and abuse audit.”
Today we received a faxed press release from the Mayor’s Office. Here’s the complete text:
“We met with the state auditor and appreciate the direction that they have provided to us to make sure that Ville Platte’s operating policies are consistent with the law,” said Mayor Vidrine.
“For approximately 15 years, since 2003, prior to this administration, the City provided allowances to the mayor and council members that should have been defined and included in compensation,” said City Attorney Eric LaFleur. “Regrettably, this technical error was never pointed out in the 14 or so previous audits that were conducted each year. But, now that we do know about it, it has been corrected. That’s why we have and need auditors.”
“As the report indicates, the allowances are compensation. The City administration issued W-2s and they were accounted for as compensation and the mayor and council members paid taxes for the allowances. Again, the problem since 2003 was that the allowances were not included in the compensation ordinance as required by law. There is no theft; there is failure to properly report the allowances,” explained LaFleur.
“Unfortunately, for over 15 years, prior to this administration, the city was not in compliance. We did not know it. But, it has already been corrected and it will be correct going forward. We strive to always do better,” said Vidrine.
The logo bearing the City’s name on the 2007 inherited City-owned vehicle assigned to the mayor has been replaced with a new city bearing logo and a public license plate.
Here’s the full audit report: