The Legislative Auditor’s Office said Monday they are considering this week whether they’ll open an investigation into spending of public dollars on a government credit card by the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court’s Office.
“We are aware of it and it’s being considered,” said Thomas Cole, first assistant legislative auditor over local government services. He said his office will conduct a risk assessment of their own and should determine by next week whether investigating the agency is “worthwhile.”
Clerk of Court Doug Welborn was re-elected to office on Saturday over his opponent Sarah Holliday-James in a landslide victory.
Ahead of the election, Holliday-James made a record request for various documents from Welborn’s office including his office credit card statements.
The Advocate independently requested the documents and evaluated the expenditures. The review found that his office exhibited 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 goods stores like Lowe’s.
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.
Welborn has not publicly commented on the credit card charges. But his spokesman Fred Sliman told The Advocate that they felt confident their expenditures were appropriate because they are audited every year.
Cole said Monday that CPAs contract with individual local governments for their annual audits and have to be on their approved list of auditing firms.
He said the firm Kolder, Champagne, Slaven & Company, which has done the Clerk’s audit for the past few years, is approved and “usually does pretty good work.”
It’s possible that their investigation would be to review the CPA’s work.