Zurik: Constable's travel expenses, badge sales raise questions - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Lee Zurik Investigation: Constable's travel expenses, badge sales raise questions

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Photos document several occasions when Thomassie's vehicle has been parked outside the Double Deuce bar in Harvey Photos document several occasions when Thomassie's vehicle has been parked outside the Double Deuce bar in Harvey
CPA Patrick Lynch (right) CPA Patrick Lynch (right)
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HARVEY, LA (WVUE) -

At 11:00 last Friday morning, a photo shows the car belonging to Jefferson Parish Second District Constable Tony Thomassie at the Double Deuce bar in Harvey.

Same story this Monday: 10:00 in the morning, Thomassie's car is there. And it's there again just before 2:00 that Monday afternoon. Tuesday, Thomassie's car is there at 3:45. And Wednesday around 3:00, once again, Thomassie is at the Double Deuce.

That's four straight workdays: Thomassie's car at a West Bank bar.

One morning last month, we caught up with him at the bar, a drink in front of him.

Constable Thomassie has not answered our questions about the way he runs his office or the financial documents that show where and how he's spending his money. Nor will Thomassie give us detailed records of his finances. All we have is the public document he sends to the state's legislative auditor every year.

Constables have a different set-up than most elected officials. In Jefferson Parish, they get a yearly salary from the state and parish, but the rest of their revenue is collected in fees for serving court papers. The constables can spend that revenue from fees and salary on an office, travel and equipment, and keep whatever is left over as salary.

Loyola CPA Pat Lynch has questions about that document Thomassie submits to the state, the one we showed you last week that reports Thomassie spent about $47,000 on travel while the rest of the constables spent a total of $578.

You see, the parish pays for Thomassie to travel to conferences, so it's unclear just why he's spending so much. The type of travel on this report would likely be related to driving around the West Bank, serving papers.

"It's way out of line," says Lynch.

Remember, Thomassie can keep all the money he collects in fees. So, according to Lynch, by claiming money as travel there's less money to be left over for him to claim as income. That means he pays less in taxes.

"If he's audited, he's going to have to have receipts and documentation what is the business purpose for the quote-unquote travel was, " says Lynch. "Otherwise he's not going to be allowed that deduction… Just because you travel doesn't mean it's deductible. It has to be related to your business."

The Loyola CPA also has questions about the badges Thomassie is selling to his deputy constables, at a price of $20 a month. At one time, there were as many as 70 people paying that fee. At that level, the $20 monthly fee could produce nearly $17,000 a year.

In a letter, Thomassie wrote one delinquent deputy that "failure to pay this fee to me immediately will result of forfeiture of your commission and your badge" - that fee went to Thomassie.

Lynch tells us, "To me it would be a sale of that badge and whatever privileges go with the badge. That's income."

Thomassie is not claiming this as income on his report to the legislative auditor. Sources tell us that Thomassie claims to have established a constable association which collects the fees - but no association is registered with the secretary of state's office or the Internal Revenue Service.

"Unless that's a legitimate non-profit, then he's got income," Lynch says. "He has to report that income."

Thomassie's job is to serve court papers and report those services to the justice of the peace.

In one instance, our undercover camera found Thomassie drinking at the Double Deuce bar around the same time he claimed to serve papers. Our cameras have caught his car at the Double Deuce the past four workdays.

But now, we won't be able to tell whether Thomassie claimed to serve papers at the same time. That's because, since our story aired, Thomassie no longer writes the time of attempted service.

It raises yet another question for an elected official who refused to answer any of our questions, even when we caught up with him one morning, drinking at that West Bank bar.

 

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