- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

INDEPENDENCE, La. (AP) - Independence Police Chief Frank Edwards has suspended private security details performed by officers after an auditor’s report said the work may have triggered state law and ethics violations.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/1oMCNPE ) Edwards and officers created a nonprofit corporation that used off-duty officers and town equipment to provide security for local businesses.

An investigative audit report the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office found the nonprofit charged businesses $20 to $25 per hour, with the officers receiving $16 an hour and the rest going to the organization.

The audit said the nonprofit had no working agreement with the town, no budget or written contracts.

The report says that arrangement created a possible conflict of interest for Edwards, who could direct the use of public assets without any oversight from town officials.

In addition, the 43 officers who worked the paid private details may have violated state ethics laws because the town had no policies in place that authorized the work or set charges for the use of public assets, the report said.

The report also noted that security details that worked outside of the town’s limits may have been improper donations of public resources, violating the state constitution and state law.

The report was forwarded to the state Board of Ethics and the District Attorney’s Office for the 21st Judicial District, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera said.

Edwards said Monday he has suspended the security details, is reviewing the report’s recommendations and will take corrective action as necessary to ensure the organization is in compliance with state law.

The report’s recommendations included repaying the town for use of its resources, discontinuing the use of a nonprofit organization to manage the security details and running all future detail income through a town bank account.

Edwards said the report is couched in terms of possible violations and he will await word from the enforcement agencies before taking further action.


Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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