No smoking gun, yet, in Pointe Coupee fuel card investigation

Pointe Coupee Parish administrators last week launched an investigation into fuel card use by employees, but the expenditures turned out to be relatively modest — around $1,700 a month.

That’s because, Parish Treasurer Becky Mayeux says, 90 percent of the fuel that employees use to fill up parish vehicles comes from the parish’s maintenance barn, where bulk fuel and diesel is available.

The highest monthly fuel-card use lies with the parish’s Parks and Recreation Department, where one employee has been spending an average of $400 a month on gas at local gas stations, according to fuel invoices from January through July. The card, Mayeux said, is used by the parish’s groundskeeper, who maintains the landscaping and handles the mosquito abatement at the department’s seven public parks and recreation centers.

As of Wednesday, Mayeux said her investigation, which involves reviewing surveillance footage from local gas stations and reviewing fuel records, hasn’t unearthed any illegitimate actions by employees.

However, Mayeux is still awaiting calls and more video footage from several other gas stations in the parish.

“If I don’t get a call by Friday, I’m turning this over to the District Attorney’s Office,” she said.

Parish leaders are hoping the DA’s Office will have more authority to obtain surveillance footage.

The fuel cards are not the only part of parish gas consumption that has caught the attention of the Police Jury. Jurors are contemplating installing a security camera near the fuel pump station at the maintenance barn, saying they have heard rumors that some employees may be illegally taking fuel.

On average, the parish spends about $25,000 a month on bulk fuel and diesel to store at the barn, Mayeux said.

Mayeux was tasked by the Police Jury to launch the probe after a contentious debate during the jury’s July 22 meeting.

Attorney Cy D’Aquila said his client, Parks and Recreation Director Salvadore Genusa, is being targeted by Juror Albert Dukes in the fuel card investigation.

“He just opened his big mouth before he had the facts behind it,” D’Aquila said of Dukes.

According to fuel card invoices for the past 18 months, Genusa has used his fuel card only three times to purchase a total of $283 worth of fuel for a parish vehicle.

The parish has 38 fuel cards that are assigned to parish vehicles.

Mayeux said 25 employees are allowed to use those fuel cards. Employees are each assigned PIN numbers that help her track who uses what cards, she added.

Genusa, she said, mainly uses his personal vehicle, which he fuels up himself.

The tensions between Genusa and Dukes are long-standing, dating back — at least — to a lawsuit Genusa and Parish Administrator Jim Bello filed against Dukes and the entire Police Jury in January 2013, alleging they were subjected to Dukes’ verbal and physical abuse.

In their lawsuit, the two men accuse Dukes of damaging their professional reputations and causing them mental anguish, humiliation and embarrassment after he publicly called them “incompetent.”

The lawsuit is set for a court hearing in New Roads on Aug. 18.

Dukes laughed off D’Aquila’s accusations and said his concerns about the fuel cards aren’t personal. When looking over fuel reports, Dukes said, he was particularly concerned with the card that showed about $400 worth of charges each month, noting that the documentation provided by Mayeux didn’t identify the employee who had been using it.

“I’m looking at the recreation department as a whole,” Dukes said. “Sal runs that department, so Sal should have control over what’s going on with that (fuel) card.”

Dukes said his concerns were sparked by a fuel report Mayeux presented to the jury that did not identify the employee who had used a fuel card assigned to a Parks and Recreation vehicle.

The charges for that card were identified in the report only as “recreation” by the parish treasurer, while the names of the employees all the other fuel cards are assigned to were clearly noted, he said. Mayeux said it was simply an oversight on her part that she didn’t write in the employee’s name in the report.

Follow Terry Jones on Twitter @tjonesreporter.