Charles K. Abels III

Charles K. Abels III

The Louisiana Tax Commission's top administrator has resigned in the wake of his arrest last month on accusations that he collected pay for hundreds of hours he actually spent playing golf, shopping, receiving spa treatments and engaging in similar personal activities. 

State Police announced the results of an audit that found Charles Abels III, 51, of Baton Rouge, claimed and was paid on multiple occasions for time worked "while not in the performance of his (tax commission) duties." Abels is also accused of using a state rental car for his personal use.

Abels' attorney Mary Olive Pierson confirmed Monday morning that he stepped down from his position of tax commission administrator last week, which terminated his employment with the agency. He had been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation — per normal protocol under civil service law — but remained a state employee until his resignation. 

He had served as administrator for more than  a decade, though his tenure was marked with multiple allegations of wrongdoing, both personally and professionally.

He was arrested on a count of domestic violence in Livingston Parish last March and has DWI arrests dating back several years. He was also accused of authorizing a false public record related to the value of a St. Francisville golf course in 2015. 

Pierson said her client decided after some discussion that it would be in his best interest to resign. She has argued that the most recent allegations against him were nothing more than an attempt to get him ousted from his job.

"Obviously somebody down there wants to get rid of Mr. Abels and he's a civil servant and civil servants are hard to get rid of," she said after his arrest. "So they had to go about it a different way. I guess they decided to go through the back door."

The tax commission is a state agency that oversees the property tax assessment process in Louisiana and provides guidelines for assessors aimed at fairness and uniformity, according to the commission website.

During its investigation, State Police conducted a "surveillance operation of Abels for one full week" beginning at the end of July, according to his arrest warrant.

During that time he "was observed playing golf on several different occasions at multiple golf courses. He was also observed shopping, visiting a spa, attending court in Livingston Parish on a personal matter and consuming alcoholic beverages."

The audit found that Abels spent a total of one hour and 40 minutes in his office during the entire week that he was under surveillance. Authorities wrote in the warrant that he visited the office Monday morning and for the rest of the week engaged in activities that "did not appear to be related to (tax commission) business."

His time sheet for that period claimed he had worked 32 hours and taken eight hours of annual leave.

Investigators also examined Abels' cell phone and bank records, his golf course receipts and time sheets between Jan. 1, 2017, and Sept. 30, 2018. They found that during that time period he submitted a total of 36 inaccurate time sheets claiming about 351 hours "that appear in conflict with his personal activities for a total amount of $17,025.40."

Records of Abels' use of state rental cars included 27 reimbursement requests for fuel "purchased on weekends and holidays or on dates that corresponded with records indicating that Abels was playing golf." Those requests totaled $1,216.82, according to the warrant.

Abels was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish prison last month on one count each of malfeasance in office and public payroll fraud and 63 counts of filing or maintaining false public records — one count each for the 36 time sheets and 27 fuel reimbursement requests. He posted bond almost immediately.

Follow Lea Skene on Twitter, @lea_skene.