BRUSLY — The Brusly Police Department is now working with state and federal investigators to recover 13 missing firearms reported in an audit the Town Council received Monday night.
The auditors, who reviewed the operations of the department between July 10, 2010, and June 30, 2014, said 20 guns were unaccounted for instead of the seven a state investigation alleged former police chief Jamie Whaley misappropriated while in office.
The report, which the Town Council commissioned after Whaley’s second arrest in June for malfeasance in office, states that six of the missing guns have already been recovered and the state’s Inspector General’s Office and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is assisting the town in recovering 13 more.
One of the missing firearms will never be recovered, the audit says.
Interim Police Chief Richie Johnson said the gun had been resold by a licensed firearms dealer who didn’t have a paper trail of the sale.
“You’re not required to keep a record of it,” Johnson explained.
He said recovering the missing weapons has become one of the department’s top priorities — especially since there’s a possibility the guns could fall into the wrong hands.
“We have no idea what he (Whaley) did with them — that’s why we can’t say they were stolen,” Johnson said in an interview earlier Monday. “He didn’t follow proper protocol or laws. He could have swapped them out for other equipment, but we don’t know that because he didn’t go to the council and declare the guns as surplus and say he wanted to get rid of them.”
The audit also outlines a laundry list of other questionable administrative practices within the police department under Whaley’s tenure, including certain bank transactions on police department financial accounts and improperly maintained personnel files for officers.
The new information could lead to more charges against Whaley but Johnson said that will depend on whether investigators discover the guns were, in fact, stolen.
Whaley pleaded not guilty in August to allegations of malfeasance in office, forgery and theft that lead to his second arrest.
At the time, Whaley had already resigned from office and been sentenced to 18 months of supervised probation as part of a plea deal on earlier charges of theft and malfeasance in office for using a town-issued credit card to purchase gasoline for his personal truck and boat.
In the state’s current investigation, Whaley is accused of misappropriating seven firearms owned by the town.
According to previous reports, Whaley never compensated the town for firearms he gave to a licensed firearms dealer who sold five of them and transferred ownership of the other two guns to Whaley’s friends.
Whaley is also facing a theft count and two counts of forgery on two checks — written to cash for $600 and $200 — drawn on the Brusly Auxiliary Police Department’s checking account.
In a finding that Johnson says was a surprise to him, the audit also shows that at least 10 of the department’s 17 officers didn’t have psychological evaluations in their personnel files.
The department’s insurance provider requires psychological data on every police officer as part of the department’s liability coverage.
The mayor and councilmen were quick to point out at Monday night’s meeting that state law prevents them from interfering in the day-to-day operations of the police department.
“That’s up to the chief,” Mayor Pro Tem Scot Rhodes told the audience.
Johnson said earlier he had no clue the department’s personnel files were so out of order.
“I had to go back and retest officers that had been employed with the town for five years,” he said. “Had they failed, we would have had to fire them.”
All police personnel files will be maintained by the Town Clerk from now on, the town responded in its formal answer to the audit.
Monday’s audit also touches on several transactions made on the department’s auxiliary account between September 2007 and March 2014 that lacked the required signatures and invoice explanation for purchases.
Auditors found similar discrepancies in the police department’s savings account between July 2005 and June 2008.
Both accounts were not governed by the town or included in its state-mandated annual audit, the report says.
Town officials responded in the audit that all police department banking accounts are now closed because they are the subject of the pending criminal investigation.
In its answer to the audit, the town promises that no other accounts would be opened by, or for the benefit of, the police department, unless they are included in the town’s annual audit.
“We agree with every finding,” Johnson added. “Most of it was corrected before the auditor issued the report, and other things have been corrected at this point. We’re right on track.”
The town is set to elect a new police chief to fill the remaining two years of Whaley’s term in a Nov. 4 special election. The candidates are Jonathan Jules Lefeaux, no party affiliation listed, and Paul D. Marionneaux, a Democrat.
“We wanted to do this to give the new guy coming in a clean slate,” Mayor Joey Normand said. “We really want to have everything cleaned up and ready to go for when the new chief steps in.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter, @tjonesreporter.