An investigation into the Iberia Parish Clerk of Court’s Office found that the Clerk of Court improperly kept $314,495 in unused advance court costs and failed to remit unclaimed property to the state Treasurer as required by law, the Legislative Auditor said in a report released today.
Investigative auditors found that between May 2013 and May 2016, the Clerk of Court transferred $218,021 from the office’s advance deposit bank account to the office’s salary fund bank account to pay salaries and other expenses. State law requires that the money be returned to the individuals who originally deposited the money. An additional $96,924 currently in the advance deposit fund also should be returned to the people who made the original deposits, the state auditor said.
Under state law, clerks of courts are required to collect advance funds from individuals when they file lawsuits. The money is used to pay for services performed by the clerk of court and other governmental agencies, such as opening civil matters, filing and serving civil pleadings, giving notice, making copies, certifying copies, etc.
Once a lawsuit is concluded and all fees and other charges of record are paid, clerks of court must refund unused advance costs to the person who posted the deposit. They also must refund unused advance costs even when a lawsuit is not concluded if no pleadings have been filed and the suit has been completely inactive for five years.
In addition, auditors found that the Clerk of Court failed to report and remit unclaimed property to the state Treasurer. Under state law, any unclaimed property must be sent to the state Treasurer each year. An examination of office records showed that checks issued to original depositors from the Clerk of Court’s advance deposit fund were not presented to the bank, which resulted in outstanding checks. The office reissued at least 334 of these outstanding checks – which totaled $47,611 – and deposited them in the Clerk of Court’s salary fund in April 2012.
See here the complete report.