Audit slams Town of Washington police chief for questionable bail policy _lowres

Advocate file photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Washington Police Chief Ronelle Broussard speaks in April 2014 about his department's writing of speeding tickets along I-49 in St. Landry Parish at his office in Washington. Voters on Saturday recalled him from office.

The police chief for the town of Washington implemented a legally questionable policy to collect bail money without letting other city officials know about it, bringing in at least $1,300 before discontinuing the program, according to a report released Monday by the state legislative auditor.

Washington Police Chief Ronelle Broussard said he used some of the money for a $400 loan to a Police Department employee and also tapped the account for departmental expenses, but he could not provide auditors documentation to verify how the money was spent, according to the report.

Neither Broussard nor Washington Mayor Joseph Pitre returned calls to their offices for comment Monday.

According to auditors, Broussard launched a special program in March 2014 that allowed the Police Department to accept $100 bail payments from people arrested on charges of driving with a suspended license and possession of drug paraphernalia, even though the mayor has exclusive authority to set bail in Washington, a small town where violators come before a so-called mayor’s court.

Broussard, who didn’t tell other town officials about his bail program, deposited the money in a special savings account that he and one of his employees set up, according to auditors.

“As a result, these collections were not included in the town’s budget or financial statements and were not subject to the authority or oversight of the town,” auditors wrote.

The Police Department has since stopped the bail program, has returned $400 of the bail money to defendants and is in the process of tracking down the others who paid bail to the Police Department, according to the audit.

Follow Richard Burgess on Twitter, @rbb100.