GIBSLAND – Gibsland town officials received a telephone call from the bank this week notifying them two checks presented for payment were being returned because of insufficient funds. The general fund had a zero balance, while another account only had about $9,000.
It’s not the first time the town has operated in the red. But some of the town’s aldermen are searching for ways to make it the last.
But first, they still have to get over the hurdle of an ongoing criminal investigation. Bienville Parish Sheriff John Ballance began the probe in June after receiving a complaint about misuse of public funds at the hands of Mayor Odell Key.
Ballance also is discussing his progress with the state attorney general’s office, which has investigators assigned to assist. A lot of the allegations lodged against Key concern violations of the Lawrason Act, which the form of government under which most of the municipalities without a legislative charter operate.
The town of Gibsland is included along with the financially-troubled town of Jonesboro on the Oct. 2 agenda of the state’s Fiscal Review Committee. The committee, consisting of Legislative Auditor Daryl G. Purpera, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and state Treasurer John Kennedy, earlier this year appointed a fiscal administrator to run Jonesboro because of persistent problems, including the lack of adequate bank records, missing public records, unpaid invoices and payroll problems.
Almost identical problems plague Gibsland. Mayor Pro Tem Marketris Jones confirmed Friday he will attend the committee’s meeting next month, and it’s likely other aldermen will go too. Jones wants the opportunity to explain his concerns about the town’s downward slide.
“I just wanted to be able to tell them how (Key) is not following the rules. Like I’ve said so many times, he is the sole person running everything and he’s doing it without a regard for the law,” Jones said. “I wanted them to know this has been going on for two years and it’s got to stop. We keep voting on things and he’s doing the opposite.”