Fred Dunn Lori Ann Bell

Clinton Police Chief Fred Dunn (left) and Clinton Mayor Lori Ann Bell

Clinton Mayor Lori Ann Bell pleaded not guilty to a malfeasance charge in East Feliciana court Tuesday.

Bell, who is in her second term as the town's Mayor, is accused of improperly entering into an agreement to lease four vehicles for the town's police department, along with then-police chief Fred Dunn.

Dunn also appeared in court Tuesday for his arraignment, but his case was continued to Aug. 13. Dunn is accused of signing as the town's counsel in the leasing documents, according to court records, but Dunn told investigators he didn't know what he was signing.

As a result of the vehicle leasing, the town suffered financially and was unable to make the payments, so the department lost the vehicles, court documents say.

Dunn shook hands with several defendants, courtroom security officers and deputies and attorneys he knew in the courtroom Tuesday morning as he waited for his case to be heard. Bell arrived minutes before the judge walked in, and briefly waved at Dunn as she walked past him.

Dunn resigned from his position in October after his malfeasance arrest, but Bell still serves as the town Mayor. 

Judge William G. Carmichael arraigned Bell on a new bill of information filed by the Attorney General's Office, as opposed to the District Attorney's Office. The Attorney General took over prosecution of the case as of last week.

The new charges for both Dunn and Bell are the same as previous — malfeasance — but documents filed by the Attorney General's Office go further in specify providing details about the allegations against them.

Continuing the case until Aug. 13 gives both defense attorneys — Niles Haymer for Bell and Jim Holt for Dunn — a chance to gather documents specifically in response to the Attorney General's filing, Carmichael said. Dunn is expected to enter a plea when he's arraigned on that date.

Dunn was most recently arrested July 4 on a count of possession of stolen things. State Police say they found an excavator stolen from a Baton Rouge contracting business at Dunn's Clinton home. Dunn reportedly told investigators he was storing the equipment for a friend. He has not yet had a court appearance in that case.

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