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Investigative audit alleges problems in Jeanerette City Marshal's office

Jeanerette City Hall
Posted at 8:43 AM, Feb 28, 2022

Legislative auditors who conducted an investigation into the Jeanerette City Marshal's Office say they've found problems.

Among the findings, the audit reports that:

  • Deputy marshals sent to work private security details in Lake Charles and Texas after Hurricane Harvey were paid $10,925 in their regular wages/salaries without taking leave, used Marshal’s Office vehicles to travel to and from the details, and bought fuel using office fuel cards totaling $1,790.
  • The city marshal also appeared to have loaned money to a representative of the firm that arranged the security details and who offered to repay the loan with proceeds from the details.
  • The city marshal was improperly paid $119,639 in overtime and auto allowance payments between January 2012 and June 2021. Between August 2017 and February 2020, the city marshal simultaneously served as the elected Jeanerette city marshal, the appointed police chief of the City of Jeanerette, and a full-time employee of the Iberia Parish School Board.
  • Between December 2013 and November 2018, the Marshal’s Office improperly paid Christmas bonuses totaling $19,450 to employees, including $4,400 to the city marshal.
  • Since January 2009, the city marshal has participated in two public retirement systems – the Teachers’ Retirement System of Louisiana and the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System of Louisiana – which auditors say is not permitted under state law.

Back in 2015 when the city of Jeanerette was without a police chief, Marshal Fernest "Pacman" Martin Sr. requested an Attorney General Opinion on the possibility of him overseeing the police department. The AG issued an opinion stating that enter into an agreement to oversee the city’s police department as long as the city compensates him for his time and expertise.

Martin has been marshal since 2009. He worked as a drill sergeant for the school system.

We reached out to Martin, and he sent us this statement:

"As the elected Jeanerette City Marshal, I accept full responsibility for the good and the bad of my office. I would like to thank the legislative auditor for pointing out some areas that need improvement. Although no office is perfect, my commitment to you is and always has been to serve and protect you honorably. My life-long record of enforcing the law is impeccable, but obviously we need to improve on inner office operations. I have terminated those who do not share this vision and have hired those who do. My team has implemented and revised the necessary policies and procedures to insure all of the auditors recommendations have been fixed and will not happen again. mistakes in the past will not stop our successes in the future. I want to thank each of you for your prayers and support as we continue to serve and protect all of the citizens of Ward 3."
Jeanerette City Marshal Fernest "Pacman" Martin Sr.

Also, there's a letter from Martin in the audit, with his response to the findings. Here's what the letter says:

We acknowledge receipt of the Legislative Auditor's preliminary report on your review of the records of the Jeanerette City Marshal's Office, and appreciate the work your office has done to advise us of areas of concern and to ensure that all public agencies follow the law.

My office is in the process of addressing the issues raised and recommendations made in the report. However, we have not had sufficient time, since the report was delivered to us on January 24, 2022 to fully investigate all issues raised in the time given to us to respond. It has been difficult to respond fully, in part, because many of the issues raised occurred during the employment of a individual who was terminated in 2019 and who was charged with several criminal offenses related to her duties and responsibilities as Office Administrator. Consequently the records are not complete, nor will they be any time soon, in view of her pending criminal charges.

I welcome the opportunity to work with your office to correct any errors we may have made and to ensure that we comply with the law in every respect. Some corrective action has already been taken, and we hope to have a full and complete response to all the issues raised in the report shortly.