To the Editor:
On the issue of possible financial improprieties in the use of public funds (the fire stations receive a great percentage of their income from tax dollars), I find it extraordinary that the Finance Dept. of St. Charles Parish (who, it appears, is supposed to review audits of the fire stations) did not even bother to read the auditor’s letter which accompanied the audit. This is a very important part of the audit. SCP itself had withheld payment to the fire station for many months following information that the auditor could not prepare the audit because information was being withheld.
One would assume that once the audit was received it would be closely scrutinized. Apparently not. In addition, I was totally confused about Ms. Toups’ comment that it was the auditor’s responsibility – – the auditor prepares the report and notes the deficiencies, but the FD and SCP have the responsibility to read the report and take action.
The audit and the auditor’s letter can be reviewed in its entirety at www.lla.state.la.us, the website of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.
And now that the issue has been raised, will SCP government be asking the board of the fire station for their plan to rectify the deficiencies and a timeline for accomplishing this? This certainly does not need to wait until the next audit. Such a plan should have been discussed by the fire station board as soon as they were notified of the deficiencies. Do the minutes of the FD Board reflect such a discussion?
Ms. Riggs’ article left additional questions unanswered. Among them:
–When was the other trailer mentioned in the article purchased and for what purpose and for how much? To whom was it sold and when?
–Who actually has oversight over the fire departments for the parish? Does the council? Parish government? If parish government, is there not a conflict here in Mr. Cochran’s two roles?
–What has the Board of the FD and SCP Finance Dept. done to determine the use of the $9,817 in funds that were not accounted as per the audit? In addition, how can the operating account have $6,190 in unrecorded checks and no one be concerned?
–Did the Board of the FD authorize placing the trailer on public property & providing utilities at public expense for an unlimited time? Is this reflected in their minutes?
–Who from P & Z signed off on placing a FEMA trailer at the fire department? Did not the landowner (SCP? FD?) need to give P & Z a letter of authorization before this could be done? Is this to be found in P & Z records?
I cannot say that I was absolutely astounded to read that Councilman Cochran has shown a lack of understanding of the difference between public and private finances. It was obvious at the last council meeting that he also has difficulty in grasping conflict of interest issues. No more than 45 minutes after hearing Jim Letten speak and his fellow speaker Dan Evans give a “Caesar’s Wife” talk on avoiding even the appearances of conflict of interest, Mr. Cochran announced that he could not support Mr. Hogan’s ordinance to prohibit appointment of people whose immediate family members receive substantial funding in one form or another from the parish from being appointed to parish boards and committees. Mr. Cochran related that “for example” should he wish to place his wife, a nurse, on the hospital board, it should be perfectly acceptable to do so. Spouses of council members and department heads of parish government have no place on committees and boards who report to the parish council.
The recent election reflected a desire to see a more open, ethical government in our parish. If we are serious about this, then all of our council members need to realize that not only must their own attention to ethical issues be responsible, but that they must accept the obligation of holding their fellow council members to the standards that we citizens expect.