Audit takes aim at former JP elected official

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wwltv.com

Posted on August 6, 2012 at 10:35 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 10:06 AM

Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

METAIRIE, La. - A scathing state audit, made public Monday alleges improper payments, illegal transfers of money and numerous conflicts of interests involving a Jefferson Parish non-profit.

According to the report by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, the agency received information alleging improper use of public funds concerning the Jefferson Community Health Care Centers.

One claim cited in the report is that clinic's former chief financial officer Ebony Williams used the Marrero based non-profit as her own personal piggy bank.

"She transferred in total $207,000 from the clinic account to her personal account to be used for personal purposes and she was not entitled to received those funds," said Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.

Two elected officials' names also surfaced in the audit.

The report says former Jefferson Parish Councilman Byron Lee received an illegal $1,000 campaign contribution from the clinic.

It also states that Lee may have violated state law by voting on ten parish resolutions and one ordinance dealing with the non-profit even though two of his family members reportedly held financial interests in the clinics.

Lee's attorney released a statement saying that Lee returned the campaign contribution. The response also stated that Lee did not "knowingly" vote on any matters that benefited his family. You can read that statement here.

State Representative Girod Jackson is also accused of receiving money he was not entitled to.

According auditor Purpera, Jackson's company Diversified Ventures received $29,000 for work not supported by proper documents.

"We don't believe it was a book-keeping error," said Purpera. "We do believe it was falsely billed as we said in the report."

JP Councilman At-Large Chris Roberts says the parish originally referred the matter to the  legislative auditor's office.

"These are issues where we saw red flags," said Roberts. "We saw problems that may exist and we called in the proper individuals to come in and investigate."

The U.S. Attorney and JP District Attorney received copies of the audit.

"I would be very surprised if some individuals don't end up being prosecuted as a result of some of their actions," said Roberts.

Other audit findings include:

- Clinic funds totaling $135,101 were improperly used for the payment of unearned leave benefits, uncollected personal loans, political donations, a for-profit business investment and a Christmas party

- The clinic issued payments totaling $194,039 which appear to be either excessive, not supported by adequate documentation or were for services that may not have been provided.

In JCHCC's response to the allegations, the agency says new policies and procedures are now in place to protect against embezzlement by employees.

JP Chief Operating Officer Christopher Cox also writes the parish created and filled the position of Internal Auditor, who office will assist in preventing and deterring this type of alleged abuses.

Diversified Ventures writes Girod Jackson was a private citizen at the time of his contract with JCHCC and at no time was he aware of any potential conflict.

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