West Monroe City Marshal William Guyton’s office realized a general fund surplus of some $8,000 for the 2019-2020 fiscal year as well as one finding for spending training and equipment funds on operations, a recent audit shows.

The city marshal’s office is responsible for providing security at West Monroe City Court, collecting and remitting garnishments and auctioning seized property.

Cameron, Hines & Company, a professional accounting firm in West Monroe, conducted the audit of the city marshal’s finances for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. The state Legislative Auditor’s Office recently released the audit report.

According to the audit report, the marshal’s general fund revenues totaled $623,878 while the office’s expenditures reached $615,202. At the end of the year, the marshal’s office realized a general fund surplus of $8,676, raising its fund balance to some $17,000.

Guyton told The Ouachita Citizen on Tuesday the amount of fees generated by city marshal’s office dropped significantly last year because of the shutdown of the court during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the closure the West Monroe City Jail.

“Six years ago, we took in $1 million,” Guyton said. “We get funds for our operations through ticket fines. After COVID came around, we had fewer tickets and combined with the loss of the jail, we had no money to operate from.”

Auditors reported one finding that showed the city marshal’s office spent fee revenues on office operation expenditures instead of setting the money aside for training and equipment. A recent law approved by the state Legislature provided for an increase in fees for the city marshal’s office but restricted 60 percent of the increased fees to training and equipment.

The audit report noted Guyton was misinformed about spending restrictions in the new law.

“He relied on this misinformation when deciding what expenditures could be paid with the restricted revenues,” stated the audit report.

“During the fiscal year 2020 the City Court was shuttered due to COVID and the City jail was closed by the City. Both of these decisions had a negative impact on the fees collected by the City Marshal. Because of this shortfall and misinformation received by the Marshal, the Marshal used funds from the portion of Act 166 fees that should have been set aside for training and equipment.”

In an interview with The Ouachita Citizen, Guyton explained his office was called on to provide court security even when he did not have enough office revenues to pay salaries. He said he used some of the dedicated funds to pay for court security, too.

“It showed up in the audit like that but what people don’t realize is that I had to pay for the court security myself,” Guyton said. “I had to pay for it out of the money that I make through commissions, and that’s how we’ve had to take care of business. I had to offset the court security expenses. I’m still operating on a shoestring budget.”

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