By Terry L. Jones
September 19, 2012
NEW ROADS — A Pointe Coupee Parish grand jury determined Tuesday there was no “criminal culpability” on the part of parish employees who paid for Christmas parties by selling parish government’s old scrap materials to a Port Allen junk yard, state Attorney General Criminal Division Director Kurt Wall said.
The Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury had asked the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office to investigate the matter earlier this year after it became public knowledge that the proceeds from the sale of old culverts and other materials stored at the parish’s maintenance facility were used to fund annual employee Christmas parties, Wall said.
According to previous reports, parish employees generated approximately $11,000 in revenue from the sale of scrap metal in 2011.
The Attorney General’s Office withdrew from the investigation because of a “conflict of interest” and asked the criminal division to take over, Wall said.
Wall said his division presented its findings to the grand jury on Tuesday after conducting more than 30 interviews with parish officials and employees during its five-month investigation.
The grand jury’s decision reaffirms that parish officials and employees are “honest people,” according to Police Juror Justin Cox, chairman of the jury’s Personnel Committee.
“From here on out we’re going to make sure all these issues are addressed through enacting proper policies and following existing state statutes,” Cox said.
Scrap metal will be advertised for public sale, Cox said, and the revenue generated will be turned over to the parish’s treasurer and deposited into a bank account.
“We’re just going to be good stewards of the people’s money,” he said.
When the practice of selling scrap to fund employee Christmas parties was made public, it created a storm of controversy, with Police Juror Albert “Dewey” Dukes accusing parish officials of trying to cover up the facts surrounding the investigation.
Dukes asked the Police Jury in June to place Parish Administrator Jim Bello on administrative leave because he had received information alleging Bello had been involved in the handling of scrap metal revenue in 2011.
Dukes’ motion was struck down by the jury.
“If the attorney general didn’t find any wrongdoing, I guess there is no wrongdoing,” Dukes said in response to the grand jury’s decision.
Cox accused Dukes of hypocrisy earlier this year, saying Dukes criticized parish employees for political gain even after attending one of the employee Christmas parties himself, according to previous reports.