STERLINGTON, LA (11/18/19) After waiting for nearly a year, the results are in for Sterlington after being investigated for town’s massive amount of debt.
Totaling $21 million, the Louisiana Legislative Auditors Office found multiple significant violations that have accumulated over the last 3 years. The report was released Monday with the official findings.
The first issue revolves around a Municipal Advisor, appointed by the town, overstating actual revenues and understating actual expenditures. This was submitted to the State Bond Commission for requests to issue bonds and to financial institutions to purchase the bonds.
“It looks like they have a whole lot more money coming in for these projects. The projects in some cases were going to cost a whole lot less money than what they actually cost” says Roger Harris, Assistant Legislative Auditor, Director of Investigative Audit with the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office. He says this could result in punishment.
“That could also be a violation of state and this case federal law because it could end up being bank fraud if you intentionally give banks wrong information to get them to loan you money” says Harris.
The next issue revolves around misuse of bond money from former Mayor Vern Breland. He directed $3.1 million dollars worth of bond money to other issues outside of the intended use. This occurred from January 2016 through September 2018.
“The bottom line is you’re supposed to be using your bond revenue. The money you receive from bonds to be used for the purpose of the bonds. $3.1 million dollars got sent to different places and we feel as a result that he possibly violated state law” says Harris.
The final issue surrounds the town not publicly bidding on two of its purchase agreements; lighting for the Sterlington sports complex and their water management system.
Mayor Caesar Velasquez wants residents to know this report is a step in the right direction, that the current administration is doing everything they can to prevent these issues from repeating themselves.
“They really dug into a lot of information and laid it out to a point where everyone could understand it. I think it’s going to help our citizens really feel a little bit better about some of the decisions that are being made. Now it’s going to make them understand ‘hey, this is what’s happening, this is what we’re trying to work with'” says Velasquez.
He also wants to let residents know that no one in the current administration is involved with these allegations. The investigation is now in the hands of the District Attorney. They declined to comment on camera but say they are reviewing the auditor’s report., with more investigation possible in the future.
If you would like to see the full report of the auditor’s findings, you can click here.