2 booked in Clinton on malfeasance, fraud counts

Kent
Kent

Police on Friday arrested the former manager of a program designed to promote the historic and economic redevelopment of Clinton’s old commercial district, accusing her of using state-appropriated money for her personal use.

Clinton police also arrested a bank employee who is an officer in a private organization formed to support Clinton’s Main Street program, the Friends of Clinton Main Street.

Carol M. Shirley, 66, the Main Street manager until April, was booked at the East Feliciana Parish Jail on one count each of racketeering, felony theft and malfeasance in office, 196 counts of money laundering, 15 counts of filing false public records and six counts of contract fraud, according to an arrest warrant issued Thursday.

Alice B. Kent, 62, a Landmark Bank employee and treasurer of the nonprofit Friends of Clinton Main Street, was booked as a principal to malfeasance in office, principal to six counts of public contract fraud, principal to 15 counts of filing false public records, 196 counts of money laundering and one count each of racketeering and felony theft.

Police Chief Eddie Stewart said in a news release that the yearlong investigation by Lt. James Cook focused on three grants and state appropriations totaling $65,235 during a five-year period.

The state Inspector General’s Office also helped in the investigation, Stewart said.

“The charges are nonsense, and they know it. Specifically, James Cook knows it,” said Harold Atkins, Shirley’s attorney.

“Mrs. Shirley looks forward to the opportunity to clear her name. Unfortunately, it appears to be small-town politics at its worst, and it makes me sick,” Atkins said.

In addition to being Main Street manager for the town, Shirley was president of the Friends organization and Kent was its treasurer.

Louisiana Main Street is a program of the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism and is designed to improve the images and economies of traditional commercial districts.

Police said Kent, instead of depositing the state funds into the Clinton Main Street Program account at Landmark Bank, put the money in the Friends account.

“The funds were then expended on personal expenses such as travel, phones, newspapers and utilities” without approval by the town’s Board of Aldermen, Stewart said in a news release.

Records show that 75 percent of all funds collected by the Friends of Clinton Main Street went to Shirley, 5 percent went to Kent and 20 percent to support the Feliciana chapter of Louisiana Arts and Artist Guild and a Clinton Blueberry Festival, Stewart’s news release says.

During the period of time covered by the investigation, the town also paid Shirley $107,524, the news release says.

In a prepared statement, Clinton Mayor Don Reason took a shot at his Dec. 8 runoff opponent, Alderwoman Lori Ann Bell, who heads the board’s Finance Committee.

“I wish our Finance Committee chairwoman would have focused more on real stewardship of our public funds instead of making a show of challenging town gas receipts. If so, this would never have reached this level,” Reason said.

“That does not make sense at all,” Bell said. “I challenged the (Police Department) gasoline receipts because of abuse of the gasoline purchases. This is totally political and dirty politics,” Bell said of Reason’s statement.

“This investigation has been a hard one for the mayor, our investigator and I,” Stewart said. “The mayor has had to endure threats and even had his wife’s job threatened over the investigation.

“Our investigator has been the neighbor of one of the ladies for more than 30 years. I am in the same position, as I know them and their husbands. But, we are a professional organization, and we show no favoritism when we conduct investigations,” Stewart said.