Running for office: Ponchatoula Chief of Police _lowres

Bry Layrisson

Ponchatoula Police Chief Bry Layrisson on Wednesday denounced as false and misleading an audit report that found his department had wrongly paid an officer’s private cellphone bill using a department credit card and had poorly managed its ticket books.

Layrisson, who had declined to comment on the audit Tuesday based on his attorney’s advice, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon through the Police Department’s attorney, Parker Layrisson, who is also the chief’s brother and re-election campaign manager.

Bry Layrisson said the city’s 2015 audit report, prepared by accountant Dennis James, of Durnin & James in Hammond, contained untrue allegations leveled against the department “without even bothering to call me to get the actual facts and review the billing records that prove them.”

Layrisson said the audit finding that alleges the Police Department paid $2,150.07 in delinquent charges on an officer’s private cellphone bill was “reckless and false.”

“The credit card charges in question paid for an undercover narcotic agent’s work phone, not his personal phone,” Layrisson said in the written statement. “That work phone was billed using an undercover alias and an out-of-town billing address to protect the undercover officer’s identity and maintain his safety.”

Layrisson said the undercover operations were “clearly documented,” and the cellphone billing records would show the auditor’s allegations to be untrue.

“Had the auditor simply picked up the phone to call me to discuss the issue further, as I suggested in my audit response letter on October 1st, I would have gladly explained the nature of sensitive undercover investigations and officer safety as well as shared the confidential Verizon billing records that make clear that city funds paid for work phone bills accrued after the officer went to work for our department,” he said.

Layrisson also took issue with a second finding in the audit report, which knocked the department’s handling of ticket books, including a failure to keep control copies of the tickets issued and a practice of issuing ticket books out of numerical order.

The auditors said those practices made it difficult to track what became of each ticket issued and to ensure no ticket books were missing.

“Our team of law enforcement professionals is not perfect, but we do a great job safeguarding and accounting for traffic tickets,” Layrisson said. “In fact, 99 percent of the 940 tickets issued during that period were properly managed, an ‘A’ grade by any account.”

Layrisson said although he wholeheartedly disagrees with the audit’s findings, his officers and he will continue to work to improve the department and earn residents’ trust.

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.