Recreation District audit shows thousands of tax payer dollars mismanaged

Recreation District audit shows thousands of tax payer dollars mismanaged

LACOMBE, LA (WVUE) - A legislative audit released Monday shows serious problems with financial management in Lacombe's recreation district.

The Legislative Auditor focused its forensic audit of St. Tammany Parish Recreation District 4 during a two-year period from 2014-2016. The audit accuses former District Director Tony Andre and other staff members of spending $27,136 on the district credit card without any receipts or documentation.

St. Tammany Parish District 7 Councilman Jake Groby, who represents the Lacombe district, said he has waited for this audit and he said the findings are maddening.

"You don't treat your checking account that way, and I certainly don't treat mine that way. Public monies are not treated that way, I'm sorry. There's an old saying, 'A mistake made more than once is a decision.' You can take that any way you want, but there is no justification for having $27,000 worth of receipts missing," Groby said.

According to the audit, Andre made $1,463 in personal charges on the district credit card, including an $891 charge to repair his personal vehicle, which he admitted had no public purpose.

Andre told auditors he paid the money back, but when they looked for documentation, they found no evidence of a reimbursement.

"According to what Mr. Andre has said, he has paid the money back. The auditors, who are much better than you and I will ever be, can't find those receipts. So my question is, if you paid the money back, you knew you shouldn't have been charging in the first place," Groby said.

The audit continues, noting that Andre and staff made multiple cash advances on the credit card, hundreds of dollars they chalked up to start-up cash for gate cash boxes, but the documentation for those expenditures was also missing.

The audit also shows Andre took out cash advances for travel during conference trips.

"One of the cash advances was off of an ATM and that was during one of the conferences in Vegas. It's unjustifiable no matter what way you look at it," Groby said.

During the two years the audit covers, the district made $4,417 in payments for travel expenses without documentation, according to auditors. Some of those expenses stem from a four-day trip Andre took to Las Vegas for a conference where he spent $3,265 on flight, hotel, food and expenses, according to the audit.

"You don't treat public monies this way. I was having trouble with the flights, one of the flights was a thousand dollars. I've flown many times, I've never had it cost anywhere near that. Was that business class or was that coach? Was it more than one flight? Was it two or three people? None of the records show anything," Groby said.

Now parents who rely on the recreation district and volunteers who give their time to the many classes and teams in Lacombe are shocked at the findings.

"It's scandalous, and he's robbing really from the kids, from the community, and it speaks bad about Lacombe," said Jessica Deglandon, who volunteers as a cheer coach in Lacombe.

Since the audit, Andre and his assistant have resigned. The recreation district's board has been completely replaced and the new members have enacted a new financial policy.

Groby said he hopes to meet with the district attorney to discuss possible charges stemming from the audit.

You can view the entire audit here.

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