EPPJ learns Crooked Creek activities considered gross mismanagement of funds

By: MICHAEL BORDELON

News Editor

The Evangeline Parish Police Jury received a report from District Attorney Brent Coreil regarding the state police’s investigation of Crooked Creek Recreational Park during its meeting Monday, October 27.

Coreil said the state police investigation “determined the deficit was created by a gross mismanagement of public and private funds. Although mismanagement was responsible for the financial deficit, no criminal intent or activity was identified throughout the course of the investigation.”

Several questions the jury wanted answered were in regards to missing gasoline, the sale of ice, food paid for by the parish and incorrect time sheets.

During the state police investigation, Coreil said they spoke with Elroy George, who was manager at the park, and Juror Ronald T. Doucet, who oversaw the park for the parish.

The questioning led state investigators to discover the gasoline issue stemmed from George allowing employees to take gas as reimbursement for using their vehicles for park business. State police said, “It was common practice to use park fuel to reimburse employees to use their personal vehicle for official park business. Although parish policy states an employee shall submit a voucher for reimbursement of fuel costs, George authorized his employees to obtain fuel directly from the on-site storage tank. As park supervisor, George had authority to make such substitutions.”

The investigation, according to Coreil, also discovered gasoline was used to power ATV vehicles, lawn mowers and chain saws without proper documentation.

As far as ice, Coreil said the investigation discovered private employee funds were used. “It was determined through interviews and supported by sales receipts that the initial purchase of ice bags for sale to campers was conducted privately. The profits from ice sales were then considered park employee profits and kept separate from park revenue. The practice of selling ice privately may fall under scrutiny for ethics violations but no criminal activity was identified.”

The issue involving incorrect employee time sheets was also investigated. Coreil said George allowed employees to make adjustments on their time cards when an employee worked over on a particular day. For example, if an employee was off on a Tuesday, but worked overtime on Wednesday, they would be allowed to put their overtime hours on Tuesday.

“The park supervisor allowed this for ease of record keeping,” Coreil said. “Therefore it made the dates and times inaccurate.”

State police said, “This practice may be described as mismanagement, but it was not deemed criminal.”

Finally, the issue of employees charging food to the parish was also investigated. The investigation determined the practice began several years ago when prisoners were working at the facility and meals were purchased for them. The practice continued, according to Coreil, and was approved on purchase orders in the police jury office, but no criminal intent was identified.

The state police report concluded by stating they “identified gross mismanagement of public funds on behalf of the Evangeline Parish Police Jury at Crooked Creek Recreational Park. However, investigators found no incidence of criminal activity.” State police investigators have referred the matter to the Legislative Auditors Office for review.

Coreil said he spoke with someone in that office and he was informed they would review the case in the near future. He added the investigation is still considered to be open.

The jury then officially agreed to lay off George and give full authority over the park to Interim Manger Irby Chaddrick and Public Works Director Chester Granger.

In other business, the jury:

•Adopted a resolution to change the language on the parish’s cooperative agreement with Cameron. Secretary/Treasurer Doug Deville said the agreement lists the parish as Evangeline Parish Industrial and there is no such entity. It should have the parish as Evangeline Parish Police Jury. President Bob Manuel said it was only an error made when the agreement was drawn up and a simple name change was the only thing required. The jury adopted the resolution and agreed to discuss placing the issue in the hands of the Industrial Development Board, which is a parish entity, at its Monday, November 3, committee meetings. The Industrial Development Board oversaw the agreement with Pine Prairie Energy Center.

•Approved pay for Sherry Buller and Mona Nelson with the Office of Emergency Preparedness. Liz Hill, director of that office, requested the pay, stating the two women are a great asset. She suggested the parish agree to pay $50 per month for each employee. She added she would attempt to acquire a grant that would pay for half of that and the cost to the parish would only be $25 per month, per employee.

•Officially approved Halloween Trick or Treating hours. It will be held Thursday evening, from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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