Audit of EBR government finds possible misuse of taxpayer money

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An audit of the East Baton Rouge Metro Council says the city could be dealing in risky business by allowing employees to use credit cards, some with limits up to $25,000.

The report by the Legislative Auditor comes months after the 9News I-Team learned East Baton Rouge Mayor Pro-Tem Chandler Loupe was not happy about how one metro council person was using one of those city-issued credit cards.

The I-Team investigation in September 2013 found EBR Councilwoman Tara Wicker had charged $13,000 in questionable purchases on her city credit card. Some of that money was spent on toys for Christmas giveaways, football camps and office supplies.

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera just finished his yearly audit on how city money is spent. The purchases from a metro councilperson raised red flags, he says, because the councilperson approved their own purchases - noting that they were for a "X-Mas give-way."

"You don't have independent eyes looking at it before a purchase is made," he said. "Make purchases spur of the moment."

Further more, the audit found there are 100 credit cards in use among city government employees, leaving the city open to possible theft or misuse of funds.

That is not the only place where the audit raised questions about taxpayer money possibly being misspent.

The Leo Butler Community Center is available for area residents to rent out for events, with a $75 deposit. That deposit is refunded following a successful event. Purpera says after one person complained about not receiving their money back, they noted other people had experienced the same.

"The employee of the center was actually allowing people to pay deposits in cash. The deposit is to be made in the form of a check or money order," Purpera said. "Not all the funds were making it to the bank account of the city."

That employee, Matthew Patterson, III, was charged with a felony theft. He's accused of pocketing more than $3,000.

The audit also looked at five workers with the Department of Public Works, who have since been fired. An internal audit by the city found those workers had stolen $12,000 by using company fuel cards for personal use and running personal errands while on the clock. The District Attorney is reviewing that.

You can review this audit and others on the Legislative Auditor's website.

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