The East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s office could have to explain some of its spending habits in recent years to an investigating state oversight agency.
Last week, officials with the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office said they were considering opening an investigation into the $93,000 in credit card expenses over the past five years detailed in an Advocate article last month.
However, Daryl Purpera, legislative auditor, said Monday that his office wouldn’t be investigating because officials with that office were informed that the Louisiana Inspector General’s Office is already working on the case.
“At this point, the Inspector General has already begun an investigation,” Purpera said. “We’re going to monitor what they do, and if at some future point it becomes necessary for us to get involved, we will, but normally we try not to duplicate their work.”
Greg Phares, chief investigator for the Louisiana Inspector General’s Office, said he could neither confirm nor deny that the agency was investigating Welborn’s office.
“We’ve received the same allegations that were published in the newspaper,” he said. “Beyond that I could not comment.”
The Inspector General’s office investigates white collar criminal and public corruption cases in government. Its investigations can sometimes lead to indictments. The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office more often dings agencies on policy mistakes in their bookkeeping practices, but can also do performance and investigative audits.
East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court Doug Welborn said Tuesday in a prepared statement that he had not received notice that his office is being investigated.
“However, we welcome the opportunity as always to provide any agency with the information that they need from us,” Welborn said. “We also look forward to our annual audit beginning next week to address some of the issues that were previously reported upon to ensure that we continue on the right path for the future.”
The spending by Welborn’s office was brought to light to media by his opponent in his reelection race, Sarah Holliday James. The Advocate subsequently requested the credit card records and independently analyzed the spending.
The Advocate analysis found that since 2011, Welborn’s office charged at least $93,000 to government credit cards. In that five-year period, almost $29,000 was spent on food, either at restaurants or grocery stores. About $46,000 was spent on hotel rooms, often casino hotel rooms.
The statements illustrate a pattern of frequent use of credit cards for meals, travel and purchases, including $760 for top-of-the-line coolers purchased at Cabela’s in Gonzales and regular trips to home improvement and hardware stores. The cards were used for both expensive meals at fancy restaurants and casual stops at places such as McDonald’s, Krispy Kreme and Downtown Seafood, with food purchases averaging out to more than once a week for some years.
Travel expenses were linked to training conferences, but Welborn’s office often sent more than a dozen employees on the overnight trips staying at casino hotels or at Florida and Alabama resorts.
Hundreds of dollars were also spent regularly at Lowes, Home Depot, National Welding Supply and other hardware stores.
One of the Lowe’s receipts, which Sliman indicated was for maintenance at the rented storage unit, had items that included a chain, Velcro, drill bits, hammers, three cans of paint in “chestnut,” “classic gray” and “gunstock” finishes, and an anchor shackle.
An anchor shackle is used by boaters to connect a rope to the anchor chain.
Welborn owns a boat and is known as an avid fisherman.
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