G.B. Cooley Services has failed to answer questions about how the organization will protect its finances in light of its financial director’s arrest last October for embezzlement of some $400,000, a police juror says.
Edward Everette Calloway, 40, of West Monroe, worked as G.B. Cooley Services’ financial director and turned himself in to authorities in October 2019. Calloway was charged with felony theft and false accounting. stemming from his admission to embezzling money from G.B. Cooley’s general fund to his personal account.
Ouachita Parish Police Juror Scotty Robinson told the Ouachita Parish Police Jury last week that G.B. Cooley’s administrators had continued to ignore his questions.
“That’s a lot of money to lose,” Robinson said. “I feel those are reasonable questions and I have yet to get an answer.”
Benjamin “Ben” Pitts is G.B. Cooley’s director. Robinson said it baffled him how G.B. Cooley’s officers, like Pitts, were unaware of the theft.
G.B. Cooley was created in 1962 as a component of the Police Jury, which appoints the seven members of the hospital district’s board of commissioners. G.B. Cooley is a training facility that provides 24-hour care for individuals with mental disabilities. The hospital provides all basic needs for each individual, including speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, psychological services and vocational training services.
Last November, Robinson raised many questions about how G.B. Cooley would prevent theft in the future. As of the Police Jury’s Feb. 3 meeting, many of his questions remained unanswered.
In September 2019, the Police Jury agreed to let G.B. Cooley incur $1.5 million in bonded indebtedness.
“I think they’re being re-audited now,” Robinson said. “I really want to know what’s being done. The man turned himself in. I want to know what safety precautions they’ve put in place. How they didn’t catch it. Why they came to ask to bond out money (the $1.5 million) when they had $6 million in cash in the bank.”
Police Juror Larry Bratton echoed Robinson’s questions. The Police Jury levies a 1.43-mill property tax on behalf of G.B. Cooley.
Parish treasurer Brad Cammack said he expected authorities to prove theft occurred. G.B. Cooley likely had an insurance policy to cover losses from an employee’s criminal acts, according to Cammack.
“I need to know what we need to do,” Robinson said.
Cammack suggested G.B. Cooley’s embezzlement scandal could spark a federal investigation because the organization’ services are partially funded through the government.
“It’s probably going to be federal funds,” Cammack said. “Once that report goes to the Legislative Auditor’s office, they may decide they want to investigate. If they feel local auditors have done enough, they may not.”
If federal authorities became involved, it might take some time before some of Robinson’s answers were available, according to Cammack.
“It may take a long time before anything actually happens as far as law enforcement or the Legislative Auditor taking action,” Cammack said.
Police Jury Vice President Jack Clampit suggested that, in the meantime, he and Robinson meet with G.B. Cooley’s board and executives.
The Police Jury also recognized several parish employees for their years of service as of the month of February.
The employees recognized included Rodney Orange for five years of service with Green Oaks Juvenile Detention Center in Monroe as well as three employees with the parish public works department: Jeremy Clack (10 years), Jimmy Joiner (10 years), and Todd Dumas (25 years).
“We appreciate the service of those individuals to our parish and our citizens,” Smiley said.