Sheriff's office financial audit highlights purchasing scandal

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wwltv.com

Posted on August 19, 2013 at 5:28 PM

Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
Email: mperlstein@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mperlstein

NEW ORLEANS - Following the criminal case that exposed corrupt purchasing procedures at the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, those procedures have been red-flagged in the sheriff’s annual financial audit.

The audit specifically refers to the scandal in which two former high-ranking sheriff’s officials pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from contractors in exchange for rigging bids to grant them millions of dollars in work .

Former purchasing manager John Sens and former maintenance chief Gerard Hoffman Jr. admitted manipulating loose purchasing practices to steer contracts. Sens was sentenced to 60 months in prison, while Hoffman, a 36-year-employee who held the title of colonel, is awaiting sentencing.

The audit, by accounting firm Postlethwaite & Nettle, suggests tighter internal controls to avoid future manipulation. Recommendations include requiring approval of multiple officials on all bids and contracts, as wells as allowing an independent review panel to scrutinize bids.

In response to the audit findings, Sheriff Marlin Gusman responded that the office immediately re-assigned both deputies when it was notified about the investigation.

Gusman’s office also stated, “The office implemented a review of its current internal control environment both internally and externally with auditors.” The outcome of those reviews was not disclosed.

Sens admitted taking about $60,000 in payoffs in the form of Blue Dog artwork as well the construction of a swimming pool at a Mississippi vacation home.

Hoffman confessed to accepting a trailer and storage container from a contractor valued at about $7,500, and will reportedly admit getting free electrical work at his home, according to court records.

The records detailed a “rigged bidding process in which real bids would be submitted, along with phony bids to give the appearance of competition.” The appearance of competition was necessary because the sheriff’s office policy required at least three bid proposals.

Two contractors cooperated in the federal investigation.

Richard Molenaar III, whose companies did air-conditioning and mechanical work at the jail complex, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 16. A second contractor, John Killeen, died of cancer in May before he could formally enter a plea.

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