Councilman Mark Spears issued the following statement and exhibits in response to a recent Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Investigative Audit Report:
JEFFERSON PARISH— “I’m extremely disappointed in the findings of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Investigative Audit Report which was released today regarding myself and organizations that serve a meaningful and rewarding purpose in the Jefferson Parish community. The findings are misleading at best, and would have those that I serve to believe that I have done something wrong, when the auditors themselves know that this is not the case, based on the overwhelming evidence and supportive documents proving otherwise. In a time when state legislators are forced to make budget cuts, it is clear to me that the auditor’s office has to find ways to justify its budget.
Here are the facts:
1) “I did not illegally or improperly request expediting any distribution of funds to Thompson Thibodeaux CDC. Thomas J. Capella (Jefferson Parish Council Chairman) and Thompson Thibodeaux CEO Board Vice-President Eddie Williams executed their Cooperative Endeavor Agreement on May 29, 2009. On this same date, Councilmember Byron Lee requested that the Parish Attorney ensure the payment “be drawn as soon as possible” so that Vendor could begin servicing the at-risk youth of Jefferson Parish. I, in my capacity as Assistant Parish Attorney, relayed Councilmember Lee’s request to the appropriate parish employee. It was neither illegal nor improper for me to perform this task in the normal course and scope of my duties as Assistant Parish Attorney.
2) “I did not illegally or improperly help my mother, Mrs. Dimple Spears, have her house painted. My mother completed her own application for home remediation service in 2008, and the application was reviewed and approved by the executive director of Thompson Thibodeaux CDC. There is no question that my mother, a retired school teacher, met all the income and age requirements for the paint program. I did what any adult son who cares for his aging mother would do; I made an inquiry on her behalf. I was not affiliated with the Thompson Thibodeaux CDC at that time, and have provided an affidavit proving that fact. In hindsight, I should have sent the email from my personal account, as opposed to my work account, to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
"I was not on the board when my mother went through the paint program nor did I provide any legal work to Thompson Thibodeaux CDC during the time period in question. Exhibit C proves that I was not engaged as either a board volunteer or legal representative for the CDC at that time. This is an attempt of the legislative auditor to misrepresent the facts and evidence I provided to them.
3) “I did not illegally or improperly ‘steal time’ from Jefferson Parish. In spite of the affidavit by a former deputy parish attorney stating that a policy of doing outside work during working hours existed, this "finding" was left in the audit. When I began employment as an Assistant Parish Attorney on February 5, 2007, the rules of the Parish Attorney’s Office were fairly simple – give us 35 hours a week, and you may maintain a private law practice. I worked on parish work during nights, through lunch and on weekends, and was never compensated for any of the extra time I spent on parish business due to the 35-hour work week office policy. I not only met but exceeded the standard for work hours, and there is not one shred of evidence to support any allegation that I did not work 35 hours per week each week during my employment as Assistant Parish Attorney (save holiday and authorized leave periods).
“Today is a sad day for the people of Jefferson Parish and of the state of Louisiana. The Louisiana Auditors office struck a blow to those who serve the public with integrity and sincere commitment to do the will of the people. The auditor’s office is charged with conducting investigative audits that are thorough, fair, complete and documented by competent evidence gathered through review of a full record. I’m sad to say that during my audit, I was not afforded that standard of fairness and equality.
“Since the first day that I learned of the audit, I have cooperated by showing my commitment to getting all the facts out about the role I played in ensuring that Jefferson Parish’s most vulnerable citizens— seniors, at-risk youth and first-time homebuyers— receive the assistance they desired.
“I have disclosed all supporting documents, e-mails and affidavits in response to inquiries made by the auditor general’s office. On June 13, 2013, my attorney provided written correspondence and supporting documents further demonstrating my desire to ensure the auditor’s office knew the truth and that I was operating in good faith with them.
“As an elected government official who has been falsely accused of wrongdoings by an employee of the auditor’s office, I ask that my name be cleared without delay, and I call for a restructuring of the manner in which employees of that office conduct investigations so that they may be fair and balanced.”