- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 20, 2015

ALEXANDRIA, La. (AP) - Two newly released audits of the Rapides Parish Coliseum Authority show how badly finances were handled in 2012 and how some strides of improvement were made in 2013.

The audits, released Monday by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office, are for the calendar/fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

The Town Talk reports (https://townta.lk/1ztpGJj ) the audits say the Rapides Parish Police Jury’s treasurer’s office took over responsibility for much of the accounting for the Coliseum Authority in April 2013 and has improved record handling, although some issues remain.

Jimbo Thiels, chairman of the Coliseum Authority, said, “We took several steps when we found out we had the deficiencies,” and finances now are being handled appropriately.

“Now I feel it’s in good hands, and somebody is watching everything,” Thiels said.

The Legislative Auditor’s Office gave the 2012 audit findings a rare “D” grade - the office’s lowest rating - which means there were comments about “fraud and abuse.” The 2013 audit findings earned a grade of “C,” which “includes control or compliance comments.”

In 2012 and in the first quarter of 2013, the audits noted, financial records were missing, employees were overpaid, pay changes were made without approval from the Coliseum Authority and tens of thousands of dollars in payroll taxes and penalties had not been paid.

Some of the questionable financial activities - especially related to payroll - were ones that ultimately led to the arrest of former Coliseum Executive Director Kimberly Neal-Townley of Pineville in April 2014.

A state audit last year showed Neal-Townley collected more than $30,000 in improper salary and benefits during her tenure. She served as executive director from May 2010 until she resigned under pressure in February 2013. Parish officials are pursuing charges.

In November 2012, however, Rapides Parish voters approved two property taxes - one of them a 2.5-mill tax to fund a bond issue for a $23 million renovation of the Coliseum and the other a 1-mill tax to provide money for maintenance and operations. The latter tax brought new money pouring into to the Coliseum and put its finances in the black in 2013 for the first time since at least 2004, the audit reports showed.

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Information from: Alexandria Daily Town Talk, https://www.thetowntalk.com

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