Auditing firm on EBR Clerk of Court credit card expenses: 'Obviously, we don't look at every document' _lowres

East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court Doug Welborn

East Baton Rouge Parish Clerk of Court Doug Welborn has issued a blanket denial of allegations made by a former longtime Clerk's Office employee who claims workers had to chip in cash for Welborn's birthday and Christmas presents.

Welborn, through his attorneys in a court-filed answer to Wilton Roy Davis' age discrimination lawsuit, denies every allegation raised in December by Davis.

Davis alleges he was subjected to illegal age-based harassment and discrimination and ultimately forced to retire a year ago at age 62. He claims he was effectively fired for opposing, protesting and reporting questionable office workplace practices.

One of those alleged practices, according to Davis' suit, called for Clerk's Office administrators and supervisors to pony up $100 and $50 in cash, respectively, every August for Welborn's birthday gift. If an employee did not pay, the suit says, that worker's job "was at risk."

A similar cash collection was taken up for Welborn's Chirstmas gift, the suit alleges.

"The allegations ... are denied," Welborn's answer to the suit states.

Davis claims in another paragraph in the suit that he and other Clerk's Office employees each were required to donate $250 to Welborn's successful 2015 re-election effort.

"The allegations ... are denied as written," says Welborn's answer by attorneys Sheri Morris, Carlton "Trey" Jones III, John Walsh and Kathryn Dufrene.

Davis further alleges that on several occasions he was ordered to go to lunch with a select group of upper administrators. On one such occasion at Stroube's Seafood and Steaks, Davis says he inquired how a Clerk's Office credit card was being used to pay for the meals.

Davis contends that Chief Deputy Clerk of Court Greg Brown told him the state Attorney General's Office approved the practice as long as it was for a meeting. Davis says Brown then turned to him at the Stroube's lunch and asked, "How are things" in your department, and Davis said things were fine.

"Brown then pronounced, see we had a meeting, now let's eat," the suit alleges. Davis says he was not asked to go to lunch with the group after that.

Welborn's answer says those allegations "are denied as written for lack of sufficient information to justify a belief therein."

An article in The Advocate in the fall of 2015 detailed $93,000 in Clerk's Office credit card expenses over the five preceding years and found that nearly $29,000 was spent on food, either at restaurants such as Stroube's, Monjunis Italian Restaurant, Acme Oyster House and Twin Peaks, or grocery stores.

Another $46,000 was spent on lodging, often casino hotel rooms.

Clerk's Office spokesman Fred Sliman has said previously that the office's expenditures "have passed our audits as legitimate and permissible business expenses and documentation is available in all cases to correspond with them."

The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney's Office is looking into the Clerk's Office spending habits.

Follow Joe Gyan Jr. on Twitter, @JoeGyanJr.