By Paige Nash
The Louisiana Legislative Auditors Council convened on Tuesday, July 25. During this meeting lawmakers reviewed the recent auditor’s reports for the town of Arcadia as well as the town’s approximate $677,000 deficit in the general fund and $871,000 deficit in other governmental funds.
With the enormous amount of deficits, State Senator for District 70 Barbara Frieburg was astounded that the town spent $1 million to two seperate vendors for tree cutting, debris removal, building maintenance and other repairs to town property. This $1 million was paid out between January 1, 2021 to June 10, 2022 and were not under contract or included in budgetary statements.
When asked for an explanation Arcadia Mayor O’Landis Millican responded saying, “We wasn’t aware the contracts were needed to be in place. Once the legislative auditors were doing there investigation and made us aware of that, we started implementing contracts for services.”
Frieburg asked, “Even if it wasn’t required, you did not feel that your city had any liability issues or any issues whether the work got done or didn’t get done?”
Millican explained that it was smaller amounts accumulated over a period of time. He said, “Before we do any outside work with private contractors, we do ensure that they have insurance, Workers’ Comp and all of that.”
Millican worked under past mayor Eugene Smith for four years before being elected to fill his role. He said, “I saw him do it that way, so I thought that was the right way to do it.”
The mayor told the council that during the pandemic when he was working a skeleton crew, he was out in the field assisting with the clean-up efforts following previous storms that hit the town.
“I spent two weeks myself out there with a chainsaw in my hand cutting up trees and removing debris from the roadway,” said Millican.
Senator Jay Luneau for District 29 explained, “I have held that chainsaw, too. That is a very admirable thing that you have done there, but at the end of the day nobody is going to remember that you got out there and cut limbs with a chainsaw. They are going to remember that you have a $600,000 deficit. They are going to remember that you didn’t do your documentation correctly and those kind of things. People tend to remember the faults that we have instead of the good things that we do.”
The rest of the meeting revolved around noncompliance issues the the Local Government Act, requirements for spending American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, violations for open meetings and improper incentives to town employees. The improper payments totaled $53,000 to the mayor, town clerk, chief of police, council members and other employees during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“At that time when we talked about this in that council meeting, the former attorney said it was legal to pay those incentives. That’s why those incentives was paid out. Since then, once we found out it was illegal, the majority of the poeple – the elected officials – have paid that money back,” said Millican.
He explained there were currently only three elected officials who have not paid back those incentives yet.
The Louisiana Municipal Association (LMA) provides training for newly elected officials, according to their documentation the town was invited to one of those training sessions, but did not attend. The mayor explained that during that time there was a lack of available travel allowances.
Millican assured the council that they are working towards rectifying the other issues regarding properly documenting board meetings with legal notice, budgeting and record keeping.
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