Iteam: IG orders former gas utility employees to pay restitution

ZACHARY, LA (WAFB) - An investigation that began after 9news I-team started asking questions, has wrapped up.  The State Inspector General's review of the Gas Utility District 1 in Zachary where allegations included using a company credit card for trips to places like Las Vegas.  

There are pages worth of allegations for misuse of public dollars and equipment, some true, others not so much.

One allegation was a gas board employee's brother-in-law had been getting free gas for about three years because the meter was broken.  So in August 2012, crews went out and replaced it.  Just a few months later, monthly gas usage started showing on the bill from that home.  Inspector General Stephen Street's said while they looked into that and still have questions, they didn't have enough to go on.

"What we found is that there's no evidence to substantiate the allegation that gas was consumed without charge.  We don't know for sure that no gas was used but we were unable to obtain supporting evidence for that allegation," said Street.

Last April, the I-team introduced you to two former board members -- president Greg Carroll and vice president Charles Hinton.  They laid out several allegations of mismanagement, theft and abuse of company credit cards..

Among the allegations, one that was backed up by a former worker was a trip to a Marksville Casino that she and other office workers took as a thank you for working hard on a project.  

"We were told that we should go to Marksville and have fun for the weekend," said the former worker.

She claimed it was paid for by the gas utility credit card, but the IG found no receipts and therefore could not substantiate any misuse.

Kiran: "Is it only because there were no official credit card receipts?"
Street: "That's correct. The specific allegation was that the credit card was used to pay for this personal trip and a review of those records show that documents didn't support that."
Kiran: "Because it was paid with cash?"
Street: "That's correct."

The woman also told the I-team two former employees went to Vegas and California for a conference and training on a work-related system.  

Our investigation last year found charges for a flight and hotel in Vegas, and restaurant bills on the company credit card, but limited information regarding spending for the conference.  The IG's investigation found more.

"There were some charges there that we couldn't relate to public purpose.  Essentially, they paid an upgrade fee in order to get into rooms right away.  They also stayed a couple of extra days," said Street.

For the California trip, the I-team found receipts for a flight, Disney resort and a car rental.  The IG said the employees used public funds to go to and register for the conference, but never went to the first day of the seminar.

"We found that they rented a vehicle and essentially drove to a winery in California on a day when they should have been attending the conference," said Street.

The two women who took the trips to Vegas and California, Arlene Norwood and Phyllis Sims have been ordered by the IG to pay back some money improperly spent on going to the winery, upgrades to the hotel rooms and additional hotel nights.  Between the two, their total they owe back is $775.  Plus, both will have to reimburse the Gas Utility District 1, one day of salary each.

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