KIRAN: Clinton mayor arrested amid 9News Investigation

Clinton mayor arrested amid town's water system issues

CLINTON, LA (WAFB) - The mayor of Clinton, Louisiana was arrested on a charge of malfeasance in office amid a 9News Investigation into the town’s ongoing issues with its water supply.

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Lori Ann Bell, 58, turned herself in at the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office Wednesday, Jan. 9 and was booked and released. According to the probable cause affidavit filed for her arrest, the Louisiana Department of Health’s (LDH) Office of Public Health sent a certified letter to Bell Sept. 11 that outlined a “long list of deficiencies with the Town’s Public Water System” that was causing the water system to not meet minimum state requirements.

The affidavit says Assistant Town of Clinton Clerk Sharon Lewis, who signed for the certified letter, told authorities she delivered the letter to Bell after signing for it.

The letter informed Mayor Bell the problems with the town’s water system must be corrected within 90 days. The state says it conducted a surprise inspection of the town’s water system after that 90-day period passed and found “Mayor Lori Bell had taken no identifiable action” to correct the water system issues, the affidavit says. The state claims there were also several incidents in which the town’s water system had pressure drops or line breaks and Bell failed to notify the public as her “ministerial duty” requires her to do, the affidavit says. It’s also alleged Bell failed to notify the Clinton Fire Department of potential issues involving water pressure.

The problems with the town’s water system have been outlined in a series of reports by the 9News Investigative team over the past several weeks. The mayor’s attorney, Niles Haymer, issued a brief statement on the mayor’s behalf Wednesday.

“The mayor of the Town of Clinton, unfortunately, is under attack,” Haymer said. “This has been third arrest for malfeasance in office in the past 90 days. The one thing that all three of these arrests have in common is that there was no crime that occurred. There was absolutely no criminal activity."

Bell was arrested in September of 2018 on allegations she used funds from the police department’s narcotics fund to purchase and tent and banner with her name on it. Just one month prior to that, she was arrested amid allegations she took part in leasing vehicles without getting proper approval.

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