Former sheriff squares his debt. Now what?
Former Terrebonne Sheriff Vernon Bourgeois has squared away paying the $19,175 the Louisiana Legislative Auditor says he owes the parish for gas, unauthorized leave and other expenses when he left office in 2011.
The question that remains is whether any further action will be taken.
District Attorney Joe Waitz Jr. announced last week that Bourgeois paid the money. Waitz said his office engaged in negotiations with Bourgeois to secure the check, which was forwarded to Sheriff Jerry Larpenter.
Larpenter then sent a letter to Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, notifying him that the payment from Bourgeois – as the audit recommended – had been made.
“My office will continue to follow your recommendations set forth in the audit of former Sheriff L. Vernon Bourgeois’ four years in office, as I outlined in my letter to you of July 11, 2013,” Larpenter’s letter states.
Whether any further accountability will be required of Bourgeois, who made the payment “under protest,” remains to be seen. Although copies of the audit were forwarded to Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the US Department of Justice, there are no indications that either office is leaning toward criminal prosecution.
The Louisiana Ethics Board may decide to look at a plane trip Bouregois took with his wife and two deputies, on a private aircraft whose owners have not been reimbursed for wear and tear, fuel or other expenses.
But no indications of whether officials there have concerns that the state’s ethics laws may have been violated have yet appeared.
The jet, which belongs to Houma businessman Tony Alford, attorney Michael St. Martin and other partners, was used to fly Bourgeois and the others to an awards ceremony.
The same plane was used on another occasion, to fly Bourgeois back to Houma during a Super Bowl holiday, to handle arrangements and other business following the death of a deputy, Tim Bergeron. But indications are that the aircraft’s use was obtained through proper channels with payments made for same.
An initial private audit ordered by Larpenter, who replaced Bourgeois in office, triggered the state audit.
The findings included an allegation that Bourgeois improperly drew vacation pay, Parish equipment was used without compensation by a company producing the reality show “Cajun Justice” and deputies were allegedly paid for working on the show while they also drew parish salaries.
Failure to collect more than $300,000 in property taxes from one company was also cited.
Bourgeois said he wishes to make no comment on either audit.
Shortly after taking office in July 2011, Sheriff Jerry Larpenter raised questions about his predecessor’s spending habits. Last week, ex-sheriff Vernon Bourgeois repaid $19,175 to the department for gas, unauthorized leave and other expenses when he left office.