Ouachita Parish Courthouse in Monroe.jpg

Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Wendell Manning ordered a bench warrant be issued Monday for the arrest of Ricardo Nance, a former city of Monroe employee who faces charges of public payroll fraud with co-defendant Sinyale Morrison, a former city engineer.

Nance and Morrison were scheduled to appear for a hearing Sept. 25 at the Ouachita Parish Courthouse. Morrison appeared, but Nance was a no-show. He was previously represented by Indigent Board Defender attorney Carl Cooper but now is represented by Walt Caldwell, a West Monroe attorney.

Morrison’s attorney, state Rep. Katrina Jackson of Monroe, and assistant attorney general Madeline Slaughter informed the court that discovery in the case had been answered.

“This case is fairly new to the AG’s office,” Slaughter said. “We want to reset this hearing.”

Nance and Morrison’s case has been continued, or reset, nearly 20 times since the pair was indicted by a grand jury in 2012 on public payroll fraud charges. The criminal proceeding was repeatedly continued under Jerry Jones’ tenure as district attorney. Sometimes the case was continued at Jackson’s requests, since her duties in the state Legislature conflicted with court dates.

The hearing was continued to Dec. 4 at 9 a.m.

Slaughter, who previously worked as an assistant district attorney under both Jones and Fourth Judicial District Attorney Steve Tew, told The Ouachita Citizen she could not comment on the case when asked for more details about the continuance.

The Ouachita Citizen directed its inquiries to Ruth Wisher, press secretary for Attorney General Jeff Landry, who noted the case history and court dates.

“I can’t really get into anything more specific than that, as this is an ongoing case,” Wisher said.

As previously reported by The Ouachita Citizen, Nance and Morrison’s case was referred to the state Attorney General’s office after Tew recused his office in February from prosecuting the case. Tew recused his office after the newspaper inquired about a possible conflict of interest, specifically Morrison’s connections to Tew’s wife, Nanci Summersgill, who is the city of Monroe’s attorney.

Summersgill, who reportedly claimed there was no truth to the allegations against Morrison, could be called as a witness in the case. Mayor Jamie Mayo conducted his own internal investigation of Morrison’s actions as a city employee and “cleared” her of any wrongdoing.

Beyond the charge of public payroll fraud, the indictments against Nance and Morrison were amended to include the charge of conspiracy to commit payroll fraud.

Morrison and Nance were indicted after a nearly two-year investigation by Louisiana State Police and the state Legislative Auditor’s Office. The investigation stemmed from a request by David Barnes, the city’s director of administration, to examine overtime pay that Morrison approved for Nance, who worked in the city’s engineering department. The city’s former human resources director Mike Rhymes looked into the matter, provoking allegations that Morrison promoted Nance to a position he was not qualified to hold and was paid overtime regardless of whether he worked 40 hours a week or not.

The maximum penalty for payroll fraud is two years in prison while the crime of conspiracy to commit payroll fraud carries a sentence of up to one year in prison.

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