TANGIPAHOA, La. - Two gas stations are considered crime scenes in the town of Independence, where police say five city workers abused city gas cards for at least a month.
Claims about the misuse of the cards started last August, but Police Chief Frank Edwards said surveillance for just 30 days recently gave his officers an eyeful.
"We are convinced, as a department, that the information provided them would be sufficient to prove, in a court of law, the offenses were committed," he said.
The results include dozens of gas purchases for personal vehicles, ranging from $40 to more than $500 and could total in the thousands. The five workers in question are still employed, but one has been suspended. Some city leaders are upset over the findings, especially with the town’s constant budget woes.
“It's very frustrating because we're sitting here trying to scrap $272,000 from a budget in the mid-year and here these guys are literally ripping the town off with gasoline," Alderman Calvin Batiste said.
People we talked to hate to hear it.
"It's sad for that to be happening,” said Larry Holland, “We are taxpayers, we pay them to do a job and not steal."
What to do with this case now lies with the victims, the city. Leaders have met twice on the topic and are still torn about what action to take. Batiste is confident criminal prosecution is the next step.
"We put a lot of trust in these individuals to work for the town, give them their benefits and all and they have violated our trust," he said.
The other option on the table is keeping the workers and enforcing a restitution plan. Mayor Michael Ragusa said he didn’t want to comment yet because he hadn’t decided what direction to go. Efforts to contact the mayor pro tem were unsuccessful.
There’s no timeline for the city to decide what course of action to take, but leaders say they plan to meet on the issue again soon.
Batiste is looking into developing a policy for the future use of town gas cards.