OPELOUSAS — Former St. Landry Parish President Don Menard has been cleared by the state Attorney General’s Office of any criminal wrongdoing in connection with a legislative auditor’s investigation of the more than $16,000 in charges made on Menard’s parish-issued credit card during a two-year period.
According to a letter faxed Tuesday to the St. Landry Parish District Attorney’s Office, Attorney General Richard “Buddy” Caldwell said that he sees no need in pursuing the allegations made against Menard in the legislative auditor’s report presented to the District Attorney’s Office in August.
“After a review of the audit, we have determined no further action is necessary at this time. We consider this matter closed,” Caldwell wrote in the letter.
St. Landry Parish District Attorney Earl Taylor presented Caldwell’s letter at a meeting of the parish council Tuesday.
The audit report, which was first sent to the District Attorney’s Office, concluded that Menard charged $16,612 worth of items to his parish government-issued credit card from 2009-11. However, he only turned in nine receipts for the purchases he made.
Menard served as St. Landry Parish president for a pair of four-year terms that began in 2004.
Menard said Tuesday that the district attorney chose to refer the matter to the state attorney general to avoid any conflict of interest.
“The DA’s Office is funded by parish government, so the DA correctly decided it would be best if this matter was investigated by the state Attorney General’s Office,” said Menard.
Menard said he has maintained all along that he did nothing illegal despite the findings made by the legislative auditor.
“There’s nothing there. These were merely accusations and it’s obvious where those were coming from. I didn’t break any laws or do anything that was unethical,” Menard said.
“I didn’t keep good enough records, and I regret not doing that. Otherwise, I did nothing wrong,” Menard added.
In its review of Menard’s credit card use during his last two years in office, the audit found that Menard “may have violated state law” by not documenting all of the credit card receipts.
Menard said the information contained in credit card bills indicate what he purchased.
The audit shows nearly half of the credit card purchases were for about 1,000 gallons of gasoline used for Menard’s parish-issued Chevrolet Trailblazer over a seven-month period in 2011.
Auditors determined that the amount of gasoline purchased by Menard during that time was enough to fuel Menard’s vehicle for 16,000 miles, yet the odometer readings on the Trailblazer for the same period of time indicate it traveled no more than 4,653 miles.
In 2011 Menard rarely attended regularly scheduled Parish Council meetings. He campaigned for a state representative seat but lost the election.
Several council members questioned Taylor on Tuesday about the possibility of recouping money that Menard spent while using the credit cards.
Council President Wayne Ardoin asked Taylor if there was a possibility of filing a civil lawsuit to recover the money.
Taylor responded: “I’ll be happy to check to see if any money can be recovered and from where. I’m not prepared to answer that tonight.”