Pearl River's finances questioned after ticket reduction memo uncovered

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wwltv.com

Posted on October 8, 2013 at 6:54 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 8 at 7:00 PM

Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
Email: arodrigue@wwltv.com | Twitter: @ashleyrwwl

PEARL RIVER, La. - More questions are emerging about how well the Town of Pearl River is managing its finances, all while the Board of Aldermen meet to review next year’s budget once more, as well as discuss limits on the use of town-owned vehicles.

Eyewitness News has obtained seven speeding citations, written by Pearl River police, that has something some call questionable attached.

It's a letter reading, "All interstate tickets that are for speeding, 70 to 82 S/B them. 82 to 90, Double S/B them."

We're told S/B means seatbelt violation, which is worth $25 compared to the original $172 fine, cutting the town out of between $122 and $147 in revenue, per ticket, if followed.

The citations, all dated within a two-week period at the end of August, involve speeds ranging from 82 to 89 miles per hour. All of the violators are from outside of Pearl River and all of the letters include Pearl River Mayor James Lavigne's signature.

As the town continues to crunch numbers for next year's budget, this situation concerns other leaders.

"I don't think it's a good thing for the town or for our revenue at this point in time," said Alderwoman Kat Walsh.

Speeding violations are normally handled through the mayor's court, which Lavigne is in charge of, but Town Attorney Ron Guth has run for the past few years. Guth said he only considers reducing violations in court, and on a case-by-case basis, after weighing factors like excessive speed and the driver's record.

He said he is unaware of any attempts to handle Mayor's Court cases any differently.

"Sometimes, we make sure that they pay the full fine that's established by code here in town," Guth said. "And if they pay the full fine, then we reduce it from a speeding violation. Probably 100 percent deal with speeding violations, to a non-moving violation, which could be an improper equipment or no seatbelt."

But we wanted to know, if the mayor's court already has an established process for being open to helping violators reduce their tickets, why does it seem like there's a blanket order from the mayor to reduce some tickets before court?

After being told the mayor would have no comment for our story, we stopped by his home for one last request for an interview. His town vehicle was there, but despite several knocks on the front door, no one answered.

This latest town finance question has red flags going up for people inside and out of the town.

"A lot of people have reached out to us over the past two weeks since your first stories had come out wanting us to be involved and maybe shed some light on things,” said President of Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany Rick Franzo, “So we actually are moving pretty swiftly in establishing a Concerned Citizens organization in Pearl River."

The move comes with the hope of finding more answers than new questions.

Our previous stories on Pearl River included questionable cuts to take-home police cars while spending remained intact for the mayor’s car allowance and town vehicle, which was not marked properly as public property. It now has a town seal on the sides.

 

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