Pointe Coupee Parish employees are charging a lot less on parish-issued fuel cards at local gas stations since the Police Jury started looking into possible misuse of the cards. In fact, the amount being paid on monthly fuel card bills is down 60 percent.

Six months ago, the Police Jury was in the midst of an investigation into the possible misuse of parish-issued fuel cards, and that seems to have factored into the sharp plunge.

In their probe, the Police Jury tasked Parish Treasurer Becky Mayeux with obtaining surveillance footage from several gas stations where employees fueled up parish vehicles. Several jurors said they suspected parish employees might have been using the fuel cards to fill up their personal vehicles.

But in November, the parish attorney reported the investigation had been shelved after officials were unable to uncover sufficient evidence proving employee wrongdoing.

Mayeux told parish leaders this week at the Police Jury’s regular meeting all the controversy ended up benefitting the parish since fuel card bills now average only $600 a month compared to the approximately $1,500 a month the parish was paying on fuel cards before the investigation was launched.

In her report to the jury, Mayeux said all departments were instructed to gas up their vehicles at the parish’s maintenance barn rather than fill up at local service stations. The report says most employees have stopped using their fuel cards altogether.

“Over the last six months, the only users have been from our mosquito workers, the on-call utility worker, the building supervisor and the animal control officer,” her report stated.

Central’s Mayor Shelton promotes transparency

The city of Central could be turning over a new leaf when it comes to public records access.

Central Mayor Jr. Shelton vowed to run a transparent government this week after newspaper owner Woody Jenkins asked him his position on providing access to public information. The issue had been controversial under previous Mayor Mac Watts’ administration in Central, as many of the city’s government services are privatized.

Jenkins fought the idea that government services provided through a private contractor were not subject to public records laws in a court battle that took him all the way to the Louisiana Supreme Court. He eventually got his hands on the documents he wanted via a settlement.

Jenkins pointedly asked Shelton at the mayor’s “State of Central” speech this week if information would be restricted. Shelton vowed to turn over public documents with no questions asked.

“We have nothing to hide,” Shelton said. “If you’re operating your government the way you’re supposed to, I welcome anybody to come an ask for public records.”

Shelton also said Central will soon have a true city hall. The city’s few government leaders have been operating out of a strip shopping mall since Central was incorporated.

They have not chosen a site for the new city hall yet, but Shelton said he expects development will boom around the new government building.

“It’s very important for the city to have a building that people are going to want to come to and do business,” he said.

Denham Springs chief gets vote of confidence

Denham Springs Police Chief Scott Jones was reaffirmed to his position Monday night amid applause from city leaders.

At the beginning of a fresh term, the newly seated City Council had been reviewing municipal department heads and ultimately decided to keep them all.

Jones’ reaffirmation was special, though.

The police chief had recently been under investigation by the city Civil Service Board over accusations that he covered up drug use by his then-head of the narcotics division. The case was thrown out this month on a technicality before Jones was given the opportunity to present his defense.

Monday, the council unanimously reaffirmed him and Fire Chief Melvin Wheat to their posts, after which the packed chamber room erupted with applause. Those in attendance included fellow city leaders awaiting their own reappointments, as well as Jones’ friends and family and members of the police force.

With the council’s show of support, Jones appears to have finally put the months-long investigation behind him.

The case was dismissed after lawyers showed the board did not properly record the testimonies of Jones and Capt. Steve Kistler, who also was investigated. Because of state law governing police officers’ rights, the board was not allowed to simply re-interview the chief and captain, board attorney Henry Olinde has said.

“(The Civil Service Board) would have to start again from ground zero,” he said when the case was dismissed.

At the time, Olinde said it would eventually be in the public’s best interest to stop spending money on the case.

The City Council evidently agreed.

After an executive session during their Jan. 13 meeting, they set a $5,000 cap on attorney fees for all future work on the case. The amount represents a fraction of the $20,000 to $25,000 Mayor Gerard Landry expects the aborted investigation to wind up costing the city.

Advocate reporters Terry L. Jones, Andrea Gallo and Steve Hardy contributed to this article.