In response to The Advocate’s report examining five years of spending on government credit cards by the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court, a spokesman said they felt assured by their expenditures because they are audited annually.
“We stand behind the work of our auditors and accountants who review our expenditures on a regular basis,” Clerk spokesman Fred Sliman said, responding to questions about whether it was appropriate to use public dollars to pay for so many office employee meals and abundant travel in addition to other questionable purchases.
Since 2011, the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court Doug Welborn’s office has spent more than $93,000 on government credit cards, and $29,000 was on meals for employees purchased so frequently that it averaged to more than once a week for some years. The office also charged about $46,000 for hotel rooms, often in casinos. The office says all the travel was for conferences. Credit card statements found that often more than a dozen, and as many as 19 employees went on the trips.
The credit card statements also revealed regular purchases at home supply stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s and outdoor stores like Cabelas and West Marine, a boat store.
For the past three years, the East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court has been audited by a Louisiana CPA firm called Kolder, Champagne, Slaven and Company, LLC. The audits make no mention of the credit card expenses.
When asked on Tuesday about whether the credit card statements caught their attention during the audits , C. Burton Kolder, managing partner of the firm, said Tuesday that he couldn’t remember off the top of his head.
“But obviously, we don’t look at every document,” he said. “We use a sample.”
“If it’s not in there (the audit), it may not been an issue or it may not have fallen into the scope of our review,” Kolder said.