We are live this morning in Second Judicial (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson parishes) District Court at the Jackson Parish court house in Jonesboro for a hearing on the matter State of Louisiana v Jonesboro, a suit filed to determine whether a fiscal administrator should be appointed to take over control of the Town of Jonesboro’s finances.
Hearing the case will be Division B Judge Jimmy Teat.
9:50 AM – Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera just came into the courtroom.
9:55 AM – About 40 people in court.
10:00 AM – Court in session.
10:05 – Powell-Lexing has filed exceptions. Now arguing that old audits are what state based suit on, and that is not a cause of action.
10:08 AM – Now arguing that original decision to appoint administrator (made last March) has expired.
10:12 AM – State’s rebuttal is that they have a cause of action, and that the timetable issue applies only after suit is filed.
10:15 AM – Judge rules that cause of action exists, and also rules against defense on timetable issue.
10:17 AM – The trial is on. Witnesses are begin sworn.
10:20 AM – First witness, Tonya Wade.
10:23 AM – Contract between Wade & town entered as evidence.
10:25 AM – About 65 ppl in court now.
10:27 AM – Discussion between Wade and Powell-Lexing about how accounting procedures set up using Quickbooks.
10:35 AM – Wade said that she helped prepare budget of 2011-2012.
10:37 AM – State objects to documents that can’t be verified. Sustained.
10:40 AM – Discussion about latest contract between Wade & town and whether she is still advising town.
10:44 AM – Discussion now about LLA’s compliance audit.
10:46 AM – Wade said she does not know if town can meet current obligations.
10:47 AM – Cross exam by state. Asking about late audits.
10:49 AM – Wade says she cannot independently verify documents, and that she can’t say for sure if bills paid.
10:51 AM – Asking about definition of “disclaimer of opinion.” Can’t testify if things are getting better or worse.
11:00 AM – Redirect – Wade says she does not know if town now has accounting person employed. Also said she hasn’t seen any statements recently.
11:10 AM – Latest financial report now online – disclaimer of opinion.
See the document.
11:12 AM – Eric Sloan of LLA’s office now on stand.
11:15 AM – Testifying about experience with ToJ. Started working with town in 2009. Referring to 2007-2008 report.
11:20 AM – Testifying that the report was about 9 months late.
11:25 AM – Testifying as to definition of disclaimer.
11:27 AM – Now discussing 2008-2009 report. Also a disclaimer and about 7 months late.
11:30 AM – 2009-2010 report. Also a disclaimer and about 5 months late.
11:32 AM – 2010-2011 report that was just released. Seven months delinquent and disclaimer.
11:34 AM – Discussing note 16 that said expenditures must be reduced. Also said he’d never seen four disclaimers consecutively.
11:38 AM – Discussing compliance audit issued in June 2011.
11:45 AM – Sloan describing how he and his team reconciled bank statements for two years.
11:54 AM – Discussing water meter deposits vs money in the bank, and property tax payments reconciliation issues.
12 Noon – Discussing CFO contract of April 2011.
12:02 PM – Recess until 1:30 PM.
1:30 PM – Court back in session.
1:35 PM – Discussing issues after Wade contract terminated in Nov. 2011. LLA office “monitoring” town’s finances.
1:40 PM – In spring of 2012, LLA “concerned” that revenues falling behind projections. Sloan still on stand.
1:41 PM – In April, 2012, town delinquent on employee withholding to state. Affidavit from LA Dept of Revenue showing delinquency entered into evidence.
1:45 PM – Delinquency in liability and workman’s comp insurance payments in April of about $125 thousand.
1:48 PM – Water meter deposit account about $85 thousand short.
1:50 PM – Sloan says fiscal administrator needed. “I see no other alternative,” he said.
1:51 PM – “I think its a fiscal emergency,” said Sloan.
1:52 PM – Sloan says he’s had experience with one other town – Glenmora, LA – that had fiscal administrator appointed, and Jonesboro is in worse shape.
1:53 PM – Cross-exam. Discussing software used by previous mayoral administration.
1:56 PM – Discussing change of town clerks in 2007.
2:04 PM – Powell-Lexing asking about fuel purchases in prior years and why that issue wasn’t written up then.
2:11 PM – Powell-Lexing now asking about just ended fiscal year and making point that since audit not done for that year, then witness cannot claim that town’s finances are in disarray.
2:15 PM – Powell-Lexing asking witness about CURRENT status of training on Quickbooks software.
2:20 PM – Sloan says he “hopes they’re adequately trained.”
2:22 PM – Witness can’t say if TODAY that accounts are current.
2:24 PM – Questions about other CURRENT accounts. Witness can’t testify as to their condition at this point in time.
2:30 PM – Powell-Lexing asking whether Wade had accomplished her tasks, since witness was in effect her supervisor.
2:35 PM – Powell-Lexing asking about town’s certificates of deposit and if its OK to use them to pay bills.
2:38 PM – Witness testifies that as of March, the town has CD’s.
2:42 PM – Powell-Lexing discussing 2011-12 budget revenues vs expenditures.
2:46 PM – Powell-Lexing saying that as of today town may have sufficient revenues to pay bills. Witness: “That is possible.”
2:50 PM – Powell-Lexing: why didn’t witness put in his affidavit in original lawsuit that revenues were deficient?
2:54 PM – Powell-Lexing asking about March meeting of Fiscal Review Committee and reports used at that meeting.
2:59 PM – Powell-Lexing making point that Wade is still engaged by town.
3:02 PM – Sloan: “CFO had a lot of responsibility, but no authority.”
3:03 PM – Powell-Lexing asking about costs of Fiscal Administrator. Sloan said in excess of $100/hr.
3:07 PM – Powell-Lexing still asking why Wade can’t do the job.
3:10 PM – Powell-Lexing bring up issue of cost again.
3:12 PM – Powell-Lexing: Has town received any harm? Sloan: Public does not know if financial records are legit.
3:16 PM – Fifteen minute recess.
3:35 PM – Court back in session.
3:35 PM – Redirect from plaintiff attorneys. Question about using CD’s for current expenditures – Sloan: not prudent. Also said he has little faith in town’s financial records.
3:37 PM – Powell-Lexing recross – Powell-Lexing: No ‘faith’ but also no direct knowledge? Sloan: yes.
3:40 PM – Next witness JPD Chief Wes Horton.
3:42 PM – “I have five people working for nothing,” said Horton. Five ppl volunteering their time.
3:44 PM – Budget currently $95 thousand, but was in 2006 $820 thousand. Health safety and welfare of citizens in jeopardy? “Very much so.”
3:46 PM – Powell-Lexing cross: Sheriff can assume duties of JPD since he has concurrent jurisdiction? Horton: JPSO doesn’t enforce city ordinances.
3:49 PM – Powell-Lexing asking about statistics for crime since JPD abolished. Horton does not have any data.
3:54 PM – Sheriff Andy Brown on the witness stand.
4:00 PM – Don’t normally enforce city ordinances. Enforcing state statutes.
4:01 PM – Do you have written agreement with ToJ? No.
4:03 PM – Powell-Lexing cross. Do you have obligation to enforce to enforce the laws in town? City has obligation, since Jonesboro, has had PD since 1901.
4:05 PM – Asking about other towns and villages in Jackson Parish. Brown said he hasn’t charged them for services.
4:06 PM – Former town accountant Reda Houston now on the stand.
4:08 PM – Worked with new acctg system from March 2011 to June 2012.
4:10 PM – Numerous errors in checking accounts, missing checks, etc.
4:11 PM – Late on workman’s comp, insurance, withholding taxes, health insurance, local vendors.
4:12 PM – Mayor cashed CD to pay federal withholding. She’s no longer employed by town. Was terminated because mayor wanted to pay employees that weren’t eligible and she would not do it.
4:14 PM – Cross exam. Asking about duties and how she paid bills. “As the money became available.”
4:16 PM – Asking about work papers and spreadsheets she created and kept on her own flash drive.
4:20 PM – State rests.
4:22 PM – Court in recess until 9:30 AM, 7/17.