GIBSLAND, LA (KSLA) - State leaders have recommended a fiscal administrator to take over the town of Gibsland's finances.
Leaders from the town met with the state's top leaders at the state capitol building in Baton Rouge Thursday during a fiscal review committee meeting. The attorney general, legislative auditor and state treasurer make up the committee that made the recommendation.
"Once that individual is appointed, he will be cloaked with the authority to basically become CEO of your town," Assistant Attorney General Rick McGimsey explained to Gibsland officials.
A CEO is exactly what the committee feels the town needs after Assistant Legislative Auditor Allen Brown testified 85% of the town's bills and loans are over 90 days past due. On top of that, Brown says the town has at least two accounts with major shortages, totaling in the thousands of dollars. Brown also pointed out the town has been illegally operating without a budget and a town clerk since 2011. "Their cash flow based on their monthly bills looks like they are spending $6,700.00 more than they take in. That doesn't take into account the 200-something thousand dollars they haven't paid. They are in much worse shape than that," said Brown.
Mayor Odell Odis Key was asked to come forward to respond, but he was nowhere to be found. Brown told the committee, Key had informed him his back was hurting, so he couldn't make it to the meeting. Mayor Pro Tem Marketris Jones instead had to speak on behalf of the town. "Yes I believe Mayor Key should have been here, to be held accountable for his actions that have led us here," said Jones and adds that he welcomes the help of a fiscal administrator. He hopes it will get the town back on track, "This is something I asked for a year ago because you can't get anywhere with Mayor Key, it's either his way or no way and it can't be his way because that's not following the rules or the law."
Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera says appointing the fiscal administrator was a last resort option after they've worked with town leaders on and off for the past year, trying to let them fix their own problems. "But when it gets to the point where we see those problems aren't being fixed internally, well then its time for the state to step in," said Purpera.
Brown says this is a result of more than a year of trying to help the town get their finances on track. "We've gone up and done a review. Our advisory group went up there a little over a year ago and did some work, make recommendations. Our investigative audit group went up there and spent time up there. We issued a report and also made some recommendations. These things are not coming to pass, those are the things generally driving the fact something has got to be done in Gibsland," says Brown.
The courts will appoint Gibsland's fiscal administrator within the next month.
The Town of Richwood in Ouachita Parish was also on the agenda. The committee voted to appoint a fiscal administrator for them too. Purpera says in his 30 year career, he's only seen three fiscal administrators appointed to towns with Jonesboro in Jackson Parish being the third and most recent, until today. He says recommending the appointments of two administrators to two towns in one day is rare and hopes it isn't the way of the future.