Nearly $87,000 went missing from St. Bernard Parish’s civic center during the tenure of its former executive director, who allegedly deposited almost $60,000 more than her regular pay into her own bank account during that two-year span, the state Legislative Auditor’s Office said in an investigative report released Monday.
Stephanie Bachemin became director of the Frederick J. Sigur Civic Center in Chalmette in 2012.
Parish President David Peralta fired her last year at the recommendation of the board of the nonprofit agency that manages the center, and he asked the legislative auditor to review the center’s financial records.
Auditor Daryl Purpera said in his report Monday that Bachemin’s personal bank records during her tenure as director show 57 cash deposits into her personal bank account totaling almost $60,000 more than her paychecks.
The report notes that the civic center did not submit required financial reports to the parish for several months, prompting St. Bernard officials to review the bank accounts, which showed that $86,864 in cash from rentals, concession stands and alcohol sales at the center were never deposited into its bank account.
Bachemin refused to answer questions about the discrepancy, according to the audit report. A draft copy of the audit’s findings was provided to her attorney, but he did not submit a response.
In addition to the missing funds, the report found that Bachemin paid her daughters with money from the center to work at its events, potentially violating state ethics laws that prohibit agency heads from employing immediate family members. It also noted that she did not hire an auditor to review the center’s financial records for the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years, which violated state law.
When questions about the agency’s funds first surfaced last year, Bachemin declined to discuss the allegations with The New Orleans Advocate.
In a response letter included with the audit’s findings, Peralta and John Rahaim, president of the board of the nonprofit St. Bernard Cultural Center, which runs the civic center, said they agreed with the auditor’s findings.
The center includes a 52,400-square-foot auditorium with a full stage and seating for up to 2,400 people, as well as a 9,280-square-foot ballroom with room for about 750 people.
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