An audit report of the city’s 2012-2013 fiscal year provides more insight into accounting practices during the first six months of former mayor Demetric “Deedy” Slaughter’s 11-month administration.
Slaugher incurred several expenses for the city, including her higher-than-budgeted salary and legal fees as a result of firing the city’s CFO in February. A state judge reinstated CFO Audrey McCain shortly thereafter, ruling that McCain is a department head whose hiring and firing is subject to city council approval.
The audit report, which Howard Tull of Provost, Salter, Harper & Alford, LLC presented to the city council on Dec. 23, states that (per a judge’s order) the budget should have been amended for the former mayor’s salary and recommends that the council review all legal fees expended to “determine whether to pursue restitution from the Mayor.”
The report also reveals that, “The Mayor hired personnel without following the procedures outlined” in a city ordinance, exposing the city “to possible legal action by applicants who were not considered for positions.”
Three utility clerks, the city attorney, one administrative coordinator, and the city’s payroll clerk quit under Slaughter’s administration. Slaughter quickly filled the utility clerk positions, often with insufficient advertising per a city ordinance.
Council member and Mayor Pro-Tempore Ray Helen Lawrence defended the former mayor in this regard, saying, “What choice did she have?”
Tull also said that $25,000 in utility late fees was not collected, due to a computer error which has since been corrected. The city’s $1.2 million fund balance also decreased by $175,000, and the city violated bond covenants with regard to sinking funds.
According to the audit report, the city is required “to make monthly deposits to the sinking fund and to pay bond principal and interest when due.”
McCain said on June 24, Slaughter set up two sinking fund accounts but those accounts were not actually used before the fiscal year’s end on June 30.
The city, however, paid the amount due to its creditors and, according to the audit report, “the bond holders did not take any action over these particular [sinking fund] failures.”
In early June, Slaughter changed prior practice by removing CFO Audrey McCain’s signing authority for all of the city’s bank accounts. Prior to that, two signatures, the mayor’s and CFO’s, typically appeared on all city checks.
Council member Hugh “Hootie” Riviere asked Tull if two signatures should be required.
Tull said, “As a technical issue, it’s not required.”
On Nov. 26, the day after Slaughter vacated office, Lawrence restored McCain’s online banking and check signing authority.
As of Monday, Dec. 30, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor had not yet qualified the audit report.
The Port Allen City Council will also take up a newly introduced 2013-2014 budget at the public hearing scheduled for Jan. 8.
The city has been without a budget since the fiscal year began on July 1 and operating on 50 percent of the prior fiscal year’s appropriations.
On Dec. 23, the council took several unanimous actions, including approval of a new work vehicle and a new laptop computer for the fire chief, to replace his current vehicle which has exceeded 145,000 miles and his current laptop computer which is five or six years old, he said, and not compatible with the current server.