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UPDATE: Police chief clarifies where missing funds went

Posted at 8:20 AM, Apr 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-03 09:22:06-04

UPDATE: St. Martinville Police Chief Ricky Martin says he wants to clarify exactly where the missing funds went.

Martin said he called the city’s bank and asked for help in finding the account for traffic enforcement. Monday, city officials said they weren’t sure where the money would have been deposited. Martin tells KATC that Chief Administrative Officer Shedrick Berard stated that an account with $37,000 was located at a local bank under the city’s name. Berard, however, did not know that name of the account.

When Martin called that bank Tuesday to assist in the matter,  a bank official was able to find that account totaling $37,000. The bank personnel told Martin that $18,000 which had been reported missing had been deposited into that account back in February. Another deposit made April 1 totaled a little over $15,000. The account was labeled as “traffic enforcement.”

“This is the responsibility of the city CFO and is not a laughing matter. The money collected for fines is the money of our citizens that was paid to the police department or Mayors Court for citations they received by my police officers. Every penny is accounted for, while at the Police Department, locked in a lockbox. Every penny also needs to be accounted for at all times at City Hall. When we turn money into city hall employees we expect it to be handled properly and in a timely manner!” Martin tells KATC.

Updates to the protocol have been made according to Chief Martin including adding a sign sheet to be signed by whoever accepts the money from the police department court clerk, as well as the court clerk when bringing the money to city hall.

THIS MORNING’S UPDATE: Last night, the St. Martinville City Council discussed missing funds at length.

There are two issues. The administration has been unable to locate an envelope full of money orders that motorists used to pay tickets issued under the LACE program, and cannot locate the account where that money usually is deposited.

Additionally, approximately $12,000 granted to the city’s DARE Program by the Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement was deposited into the general fund and spent – but not on DARE expenses. That means the city will just have to come up with $12,000 to pay for DARE expenses, because it’s grant money that can’t be used for general city operations.

Police Chief Ricky Martin said he’s hoping that the city’s administration can locate the missing LACE funds by Friday. If not, he’ll ask State Police to investigate.

“If it’s Monday morning and the money isn’t found, I’m calling State Police to come in and do an investigation,” Martin said. “I’m not going to do it, because that was our money. I don’t want there to be a conflict.”

Martin said the money orders were delivered to the city employee who makes the deposits for LACE back in February. The employee locked the envelope in her desk, which is an office that has a security system, with the intent of depositing it two days later. The employee had a scheduled surgery the following day, but had expected to be back at work two days later, he said. However, that didn’t happen and the employee is still in the hospital, he said. Other city employees called to see where the envelope was, but when they looked in her desk it wasn’t there, the chief said.

The LACE program is a state program that encourages local law enforcement to use overtime to focus on traffic enforcement, as a way to reduce crashes. St. Martinville’s LACE program is self-funded with fines collected from those tickets, the chief explained. He said that at last night’s council meeting, the city administration said they did not know where that money generally was kept. The Police Department doesn’t have it’s own budget or accounts, the chief explained. All funds are turned over to the city administration, he said.

While looking for that account, the city administration did find another account with $37,000 in it, but can’t say where that money came from or what it’s supposed to be used for, Martin said.

City administration officials told us last night at the meeting that they planned to continue their search today.

Here’s our story from the meeting last night:

The St. Martinville City Council and the mayor are looking into missing D.A.R.E and LACE funds.

Mayor Melinda Mitchell tells KATC she learned about the missing money on Friday of last week. Mitchell says she will begin investigating where that money went tomorrow morning.

“We’re going to search the office for it, get a list from the chief of who it was who paid by money orders, and hopefully we can get with the people who got the money orders, and hopefully we can track if the money orders have been cashed, and we’ll just have to do some research to find the money.”

Some members of the council and Mitchell have been at odds over the handling of business in the city. In March, Mitchell spoke to KATC about how she feels “disrespected and bullied” since taking office saying she has been the constant target of a councilman.

Mitchell says because of the internal fighting in St. Martinville, nothing is getting accomplished. She is vowing to work with the council and move the city forward.

Read more from that story here: Bullied and Disrespected, KATC speaks with St. Martinville Mayor