By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor
A recent audit of Louisiana’s 42nd Judicial District for 2020 uncovered a series of issues, from public money spent on the district attorney’s political campaign, to missing contracts, misuse of diversion fund money, and payroll problems.
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor published a contracted audit of the DeSoto Parish district attorney’s office finances for 2020 on Friday.
The report highlights invoices totaling $69,447 for Rougarou Consulting between February 7, 2020 and June 26, 2020 that were recorded in the general fund for miscellaneous expenses as District Attorney Gary Evans was running for office.
“The invoices’ description of services provided were professional services, digital/social media ads design, billboard ad design, Lamar billboard, digital/social media ads, radio ads for playoffs, mail productions, and mail postage,” the report reads.
“According to Mr. Evans’ candidate report, filed as a public document on the Louisiana Board of Ethics website, his campaign paid Rougarou Consulting $10,000 for political consulting on January 21, 2020,” it continues. “Then from February 7, 2020, through June 26, 2020, the District Attorney’s office paid Rougarou Consulting and other associated vendors $73,097.10. Subsequent campaign disclosure reports revealed that from July 20, 2020 through November 3, 2020, Gary Evans’ campaign paid Rougarou Consulting $87,465.”
The report notes that Evans spent an average of $2,374 for the prior five years on public service advertising.
Auditors also cited $14,400 paid to a vendor for microbial fumigation services at a traffic diversion office with three employees, no public traffic, and a regular housekeeper.
“There were no quotas or contracts in the files,” according to the report. “The invoices have no dates on them.”
Another issue centered on management overrides of payroll policies that prevent employees from carrying over or accumulating vacation and sick leave. Evans requested several terminated employees receive $18,761 for uncompensated time and prior years’ vacation in January 2021, as well as an additional $13,618 for four weeks of vacation for 2021, “even though they were only employed for one week in 2021,” the report read.
Auditors also took issue with $800,000 transferred from a diversion fund to the general fund to cover salaries in 2019 and 2020, as well as miscalculated payroll taxes that resulted in an overpayment of $8,108.
Other issues involved the late submission of the office’s required annual audit, and failure to revise the general fund and diversion budgets when revenues were more than 5% less than expected.
DeSoto District Attorney Charles Adams responded to the report’s findings in a letter dated August 22 that blamed the issues on his predecessor.
Adams wrote that he hired an external, certified public accounting firm to rectify many of the bookkeeping and management override issues.
The current administration established an employee handbook to specifically address issues with the management overrides for leave time and overtime, and changed how the district collects fines and costs that fund the diversion program.
Adams also vowed to “adopt a process of comparing budgeted amounts to actual amounts on a timely basis.”