Swiped: Director placed on leave after questionable spending

Swiped: Director placed on leave after questionable spending

BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - The director of the state's Municipal Employees Retirement System, Bob Rust, is on paid administrative leave for two months after the Board of Trustees for the system voted in favor of the move, following a Lee Zurik investigation uncovering questionable spending.

Board member and State Treasurer John Kennedy was appalled as he learned details about the questionable spending.

"We found out some disturbing information and that is, and some changes have been made to some of the documentation, some of the documents have been altered," Kennedy said.

The board's General Counsel and now acting director, Warren Ponder, discovered seemingly altered receipts from a trip Rust took to a four-star hotel, where he claimed he was planning a conference using public money.

"I went to that document that we got directly from the Grand {Hotel} and compared it to a document we had on a flash drive that we had sent to Lee Zurik," Ponder said, "and the two were different."

During the meeting, Ponder pointed out the identical receipts where it appeared Rust's son's name, Cameron, was printed and then altered to remove the name.

"I look at that and it quite frankly frightened me, and I didn't want it in just my possession, I wanted it in the hands of someone else," Ponder said.

Ponder told the board he turned the evidence over to Sheriff's deputies who said they would investigate.

"This money, in my opinion, is not private money, it's public money, it belongs to the tax payers of the state, it belongs to the retirees of this system," Kennedy said.

Kennedy was stunned to learn some of those receipts documenting the questionable spending were allowed to walk out of the office, according to staff members, who told the board Rust took the receipts home on several occasions.

"It causes you to question all the documents, which other documents might have been altered, we're gonna go back to the original source, the restaurants where he spent the money and the Grand Hotel resort to try to get original documents from them to compare to ours," Kennedy said.

Kennedy is demanding the embattled director attend a meeting in two weeks to explain the evidence uncovered by the investigation and the board.

"If Mr. Rust doesn't come to that meeting, I'm gonna move for his dismissal because he's got the information, it's very simple," Kennedy said.

e next meeting takes place on June 18th. Kennedy says the board will implement new procedures to ensure public dollars trusted to the Municipal Employees Retirement System aren't mismanaged.

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