Jonesboro gets 1st audit opinion in 5 years

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JONESBORO, La. (AP) - The town of Jonesboro received its first audit opinion in five years, giving officials a final look into the questionable financial practices of former Mayor Leslie Thompson.

The News-Star reports (http://tnsne.ws/N6VCwD) the qualified opinion included nine control deficiencies and three instances of noncompliance.

Fiscal Administrator Kenneth Folden said just getting the opinion shows the town is moving in the right direction and has taken many steps to correct its fiscal chaos.

“We were excited (to receive the opinion),” Folden said. “Everything in there we’d identified. Half of it is cleared up. Nothing was a surprise.”

The audit, prepared by J. Walker and Company of Lake Charles, outlines numerous accounting discrepancies, including no controls to ensure that ad valorum taxes collected for the fire department and street maintenance were spent for their intended purposes.

The audit also found improper use of town vehicles and found the mayor ignored a 2011 court-ordered injunction and continued to improperly pay himself $25,846 more than what the salary ordinance allowed.

Folden, who had audited the town’s finances for years before resigning during Thompson’s first term, said he was already familiar with most of the town’s financial problems. He became the town’s fiscal administrator the day after Thompson was convicted of three counts of malfeasance in office in September. Thompson is serving a six-year sentence in prison.

Part of Thompson’s punishment requires paying almost $52,000 in restitution to the town.

Folden said he immediately parked the town car once Thompson turned it over. The car is now only used by town employees to run errands, he said. Proper tagging and licensing for the vehicle also has been corrected.

Folden said the mayor’s salary of $70,000 is not an issue because there is no mayor. An election will be held in November to fill the position.

Among the issues corrected since Folden assumed his role include: tighter controls over financial reporting, addressing the noncompliance of professional contracting laws, implementing procedures to accurately track the number of traffic tickets issued and the disposition of those tickets, ending benefits for ineligible employees, implement policies to address unclaimed property, filing financial reports in a timely fashion and collecting the mayor’s unused travel advances.

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Information from: The News-Star, http://www.thenewsstar.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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