CLINTON, LA (WAFB) - The Louisiana legislative auditor will soon be in Clinton to review the town’s finances and worst case scenario, a court may have to order a fiscal administrator to take over.
“This is the first one that I can recall,” said Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.
Purpera is referring to the possibility of the state having to appoint someone to take over Clinton’s financial situation.
“I’ve assigned a team of my auditors that are going to be going next week to go begin reviewing records to determine whether or not the town is in fiscally stable position or are they in a position where they cannot afford to correct the water system problems,” said Purpera.
Louisiana law gives auditors full access to all of the town’s records and if Clinton officials fight them, they can get a court order to go around them. “We’ll review the records and look to see what their cash flow situation is, what their debt situation is, whether they’re in default with any debt,” said Purpera.
The auditors will look at things like the amount spent on four Chevy Tahoes and $97,000 Clinton Mayor Lori Bell transferred from one account to another without a clear explanation. If the auditors feel the town is not in a good position financially, they will be required to go to the state capitol before the Fiscal Review Committee in February. That committee is made up of three people: Attorney General Jeff Landry, State Treasurer John Schroder, and Daryl Purpera. The auditors would present their findings and Clinton officials would get to defend their side.
“As a Fiscal Review Committee and as the state, we certainly want the local government to take care of those local problems, but sometimes, we just find that they’re not able to,” said Purpera.
If the three committee members vote unanimously that Clinton is not financially sound, the attorney general would go to the East Feliciana Parish courthouse asking a judge to order a fiscal administrator take over the town’s finances. “That person is given very broad authority by the courts. They basically take over in the position of mayor and the council,” said Purpera.
It’s something Purpera says has happened in other parts of Louisiana, but the first time he can recall in the Baton Rouge area, adding when they have had to take such extreme measures in the past, it has worked to fix the financial instability.
“It has the ability to help a local entity right the ship, turn it in the right direction, and go in the right direction in the future,” said Purpera.
If the court does have to appoint a fiscal administrator, it’s a process that could take a few months.