La. legislative auditor speaks on allegations against City of Shreveport’s Finance Department
SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - Following a week of legal threats and political mud slinging, could state investigators soon be in Shreveport digging into allegations of malfeasance and financial wrongdoing in the City Finance Department?
Louisiana Legislative Auditor Mike Waguespack says it is definitely a possibility.
On Monday, Jan. 24, S. Ben Hebert, former Shreveport city controller, promised legal action against the City of Shreveport. He claimed he was fired after blowing the whistle on city leaders for alleged financial improprieties.
This included things like improperly approving and paying some of Mayor Adrian Perkins’ travel expenses, in violation of state law.
As a certified public accountant and fraud examiner, Hebert’s allegations caught the attention of Councilman John Nickelson. He then sent a letter to Baton Rouge asking Waguespack to open an investigation into the City of Shreveport’s Finance Department.
“We simply may go in as a trusted advisor to begin the process of looking at the complaints and looking at the accounting practices or looking at the documentation. And if it happens to lead us into an investigative mode, then we’ll certainly go that route too. If we find merit with the complaints or what we look at,” he said.
According to Waguespeak, because of Nickelson’s position on city council, his request for a state investigation carries added weight.
“So our team takes any and all complaints serious, but of course, what it is, is a counsel that is making such a report, a request on his entity itself it certainly merits us you know, taking a serious look at it,” he said.
Nickelson is now drawing fire from Perkins, who questioned the councilman’s “motives and character” in a statement given to KSLA.
According to Perkins, Nickelson is misrepresenting himself to the Legislative Auditor’s Office by writing he is “Chairman of the Shreveport City Council Audit and Finance Committee.” This is a title that multiple councilmembers tell KSLA that Nickelson held until the day he asked for an investigative audit of the city’s finances.
Perkins says, under the City Charter, Nickelson’s term as Chairman of the Audit and Finance Committee ended when Councilman James Green became Chairman of the City Council two weeks ago.
Waguespack says he will pay those politics no mind. If an investigation is called for, he says his auditors are coming to town. He said his office could make a decision whether to investigate the department within the next two weeks.
“If we run across things that cause concern and we have to investigate further, we will,” he said.
Councilman Nickelson and Mayor Perkins declined an interview for this story.
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