A Winnsboro Town Council member questioned Mayor Alice Wallace’s spending habits and accused her of malfeasance during a recent meeting.
Town Council member Rex McCarthy took the lead in quizzing Wallace in the Dec. 28 meeting over a $9,000 purchase for “merit awards.” The bonuses were in the form of cooking grills and were gifted to town employees at Christmas.
According to McCarthy, Wallace did not “have the authority” to authorize merit awards without first coming before the Town Council for approval.
“Stop saying merit system mayor,” McCarthy said. “That has not been adopted by this body. Right now, you have done something you did not have the authority doing. What I am calling now is malfeasance.”
According to the Lawrason Act, “The express or implicit authorization of the board is required for all public expenditures.”
According to the Louisiana statute 33:1891 through 1892, “The governing body of any municipality shall have authority to grant merit awards to full-time permanent employees of the municipality in accordance with the provisions of this Part. Nothing herein shall be in conflict with Civil Service rules and regulations. Prior to the granting of any awards, the governing body (Town Council) may formulate, adopt, establish, and maintain a plan to encourage and reward unusual and meritorious suggestions, actions, procedures, and accomplishments by its employees, which promote economy and efficiency in the performance of any function of the municipal government. The plan shall be reduced to writing and may be made available for inspection to all municipal employees.”
The Louisiana Ethics Commission goes further explaining gifts. According to Ethics’ statute, “No public servants shall solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any thing of economic value as a gift or gratuity from any person or from any officer, director, agent, or employee of such person, if such public servant knows or reasonably should know that such person: Conducts operations or activities which are regulated by the public employee’s agency.”
Aiding in her decision to spend the funds, Wallace contacted J. Walker & Company of Lake Charles, Winnsboro’s auditors, to see if the merit awards were legal and the appropriate way to fund them.
“We talked with our auditor, and I made sure I was covered in this,” Wallace said. “The way they told us to do it was through a merit award not a Christmas gift. These people have been working for the Town of Winnsboro for years. They have never received any kind of merit award for anything they have done. They deserve it.”
Wallace went on to explain merit awards were bankrolled from money saved from the lack of overtime.
“Last year, our overtime for our public works were $12,500,” Wallace said. “We have not spent any in overtime. I didn’t make the town broke with these merit awards. I made sure the auditors were with us every step in the way.”
In an e-mail provided to The Franklin Sun on Dec. 29, Jonald Walker with J. Walker & Company, wrote: “It is my understanding (from our discussions) that funds for the appreciation gifts were available in two manners: The sale of surplus assets and employee/personnel cost centers which has been budgeted. In my view, based upon the total dollar amount of the transaction this transaction would be considered a normal operating expense in the general course of business for the town and therefore wouldn’t require prior authorization from the council to purchase.”
During the discussion, Town Clerk Julia Jackson referred to Louisiana statute 33:1893 which stated: “Awards may be in cash or in the form of corporeal movables. An award in cash shall be for a sum not in excess of two thousand dollars. An award in the form of a corporeal movable shall have a fair market value not greater than twelve hundred dollars.”
But McCarthy questioned Jackson, “Does the mayor have to have the consent from this council to pass the merit system?”
Wallace answered McCarthy’s question by saying the next time employees were up for a merit award she would bring a resolution before Town Council members but asked “Are you against them having a merit award?”
Town Council member Jerry Johnson answered, “It is not whether the council is against it. I think all of these employees deserve it. But there is a certain way to do it.”
McCarthy added, “Mayor, we got a problem right now. You have stepped over your boundaries.”
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.