MARINGOUIN, LA (WAFB) - An audit released Monday claims in a two year period, former Maringouin Police Chief John Simien along with one of his officers, would sometimes extend their hotel stays while attending out of town conferences. Specifically, there were six different conferences in Baton Rouge, Marksville and Lafayette that raised questions. In total, taxpayers paid $1,291 in added expenses.
"They were usually finished between Noon and 3:00 in the afternoon, and instead of driving back home, they decided to stay overnight and charge that to taxpayer's expense," said Director of Investigative Audits Roger Harris with the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.
The audit went on to say there were discrepancies to the tune of $116,000 when it comes to supplemental pay for officers. Those officers who get it are supposed to have gone through an additional certified training called P.O.S.T. to get an additional $500 a month in salary.
"$31,000 of that has to do with the police chief, and the police chief was not P.O.S.T. certified, yet he received the money," said Harris.
The audit also claims a town magistrate went against the law when she allegedly reduced some traffic tickets to non-moving violations saying only a prosecutor has the authority to reduce offenses, not a magistrate.
"We're looking at about 124 violations that were reduced. If they hadn't been reduced, it would have been probably $11,000-$12,000 for the town of Maringouin they would have had available to spend," said Harris.
"It's a shame and an embarrassment," said the former town mayor John Overton. "This wasn't brought to my attention while I was in office, but I lost the election so there wasn't anything else I could do."
Since Overton lost to the current mayor Demi Vorise, he asked the audit findings be turned over to the current mayor and district attorney Ricky Ward. Vorise refused to go on camera and issued a statement instead.
The paramount concern of the governing authority for the Town of Maringouin is the best interest of the residents of the great Town of Maringouin and to ensure that all local officials are adhering to all state laws and regulations. The findings of the Louisiana Legislative Auditors were under the previous Administration of the Honorable John Overton, Sr. Under the previous Administration, it at times lacked check and balances. However, I am not asserting blame against any person or group. Nevertheless, the recommended findings have been reviewed and are currently being implemented. I believe in the governing board of Alderman and the Chief of Police. I am confident that this Administration will continue to make Maringouin one of the greatest places to reside.
Simien had no comment for the story, and a call to Ricky Ward was not returned.