The Investigators: Port Allen employee under investigation

The Investigators: Port Allen employee under investigation

PORT ALLEN, LA (WAFB) - An investigation is underway into a Port Allen utility employee, according to Mayor Richard Lee.

"There's a possibility of misappropriation of funds," said Port Allen Council Member Hugh "Hootie" Riviere.

"That investigation is ongoing," said Mayor Lee.

The target of that investigation is an utility employee at the Port Allen City Hall. Sources tell The Investigators the unnamed employee signed two different contracts with customers, basically putting money towards their accounts and letting the customer pay it back over time. It's kind of like a loan from the City of Port Allen without any interest.

Kiran: Who authorizes those agreements?
Mayor: The mayor and chief administrative officers.
Kiran: Those are the only people who can authorize those contracts?
Mayor: At this particular time, as of my knowledge, I would say yes.

But we're told the particular employee did not have any authorization from the mayor or chief administrative officer for those payment adjustment contracts.

The Investigators put in a public records request and while we were told the actual utility contracts are not public, we did receive a response, with part of it saying, "One of the contracts was fully completed satisfactorily even though it was performed by someone who lacks the authority to enter into this contract. The other contractual agreement was not completed satisfactorily and this money has not yet been recovered from the customer or the employee
who did it."

Kiran: Are utility customers who get behind in paying their bills allowed to take money from the City of Port Allen and basically pay it back?
Mayor: No ma'am.
Kiran: Were any contracts such as that signed by you?
Mayor: No ma'am.
Kiran: Would you allow something like that?
Mayor: No ma'am.

Sources said the second contract was for $220 to the employee's mother. But then a few weeks ago, that account allegedly went from minus $220 to $0 without any proof of anyone having paid back the money.

"Some people might say it's only $220. I don't care if it's $20. It's still misappropriation. It's something and then the worst part for me is from what I understand, the employee trying to cover it up," said

Riviere said he asked to see the documents himself but the city attorney refused saying it was under investigation. He added since it all happened on a computer and every employee has their own user name, "The digital footprint is like DNA. It doesn't lie," said Riviere.

A Dec. 2015 audit warned Port Allen city officials saying presently, employees handling the utility bills have access to and can make changes to the customer's master files.

It went on to say "Without sufficient segregation of duties, the risk significantly increases that errors and fraud related to the utility billing and collection process, including misappropriation of assets, could occur and not be detected within a timely basis."

But Mayor Lee said rest assured, he's waiting to finish their investigation.

"If they're found to do something out of character or in violation, it will be held accountable and actions will be taken," said Mayor Lee.

The mayor said if they find the results of their investigation to be criminal in nature, he will turn them over to the police and district attorney. If they're negligent, he will handle them internally but some council members said the investigation itself needs to be handled by an independent agency, not the city's attorney and mayor.

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