Auditor: Cochran broke law

March 26, 2008 at 9:17 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Auditor: Cochran broke law
Ronald Dawson, the certified public accountant who conducted an audit of the St. Rose Fire Station in 2006, says that Councilman and Fire Chief Larry Cochran broke a state law by allowing his mother to live at the station.

Dawson says that he never noticed the FEMA trailer when he conducted his audit, and wasn't aware that the fire station was used to house a couple from New Orleans. Dawson will be reviewing the 2007 records of the St. Rose Fire Station on April 15 and plans to complete his report by June 30.

"If the audit proves that he (Cochran) allowed people to live at the station, I will inform the state's auditor and they could decide to take it a step forward to the ethics board," Dawson, who works for ErickesenKrentel and Laporte Certified Public Accountants and Consultants, said. "We may also speak to the district attorney about the situation."

Dawson also said that if Cochran's mother and the couple did in fact use the utilities, they would have to pay back the fire station in one lump sum. Payment could resolve the situation.

"The St. Rose Fire Department is not a lender, so accepting monthly payments is out of the question," he said.

Dawson says that the new audit will help determine how much money is owed.

"It's a FEMA trailer, so just estimating, it couldn't be anymore than $10,000 or $15,000 in utilities," he said. "The question still remains about why the FEMA trailer was there to begin with because, as far as I know, the station didn't have any damage caused by Katrina. I want an explanation about why the FEMA trailer was needed."

The 2006 audit showed that $6,000 was spent without the proper invoices or receipts to justify the payments, Dawson said. That audit also showed Cochran sold a trailer that was purchased by the fire station with public funds to an individual without holding a public auction, which is also a violation of state law.

"He simply sold a trailer that was purchased with public funds to someone and then deposited the money into a private account at the fire station," he said.

Dawson says this was done in 2005 (after Katrina) and it's too late to ask the person who purchased the trailer to give it back.

"We're not sure if he actually sold it for that amount or not, or if the person even paid the value for what the trailer was worth," he said.  "That's the reason that a public auction is held."

Even with the cloud of suspicion hanging over Cochran's head, five council members voted to appoint him as an ex-officio member of the planning and zoning board.  Dennis Nuss, Billy Raymond, Shelley Tastet and Wendy Benedetto voted for Cochran, while Terry Authement, Paul Hogan and Carolyn Schexnaydre voted against Cochran's appointment.

Cochran’s alleged illegal activities were not addressed at Monday’s council meeting.

View other articles written Shonna Riggs

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