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Editorial: Head of state's ATC deserves plaudits for stewardship with taxpayers’ money

Last Modified: Thursday, December 27, 2012 6:41 PM

Troy Hebert is fast earning a reputation as a no-nonsense public servant.

The head of Louisiana’s Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control recently cracked down on the use of state-paid cellular minutes by ATC agents.

Via an internal audit Hebert ordered, it was discovered that one agent had used more than 3,000 minutes of personal use on his state-issued phone, with 1,400 of those minutes being used while the agent was on the clock.

That wasn’t an isolated incident. The audit found that during October, 22 ATC agents used 205 hours of state-paid cellular minutes for their personal use with about 90 of those hours being used while the agents were on duty.

“This type of blatant abuse of taxpayer dollars will not be tolerated. Rather than spending their time dealing with ATC issues, agents have decided to spend hours on personal phone calls and claiming pay from the state while doing so. Then, to make it even worse, they were using a phone paid for by the state to do it,” said Hebert.

Hebert stopped the abuse and said disciplinary action is pending. The audit has been turned over to the legislative auditor and state inspector general for further investigation.

Earlier this year, several ATC agents either resigned or were demoted after GPS devices on their state vehicles revealed that the agents were at home while on duty.

Last year, Hebert installed a time clock because he discovered that some employees were arriving late for work and taking two-hour lunch breaks. He also said some ATC employees were charging the state for work time from the minute they left their driveway to commute to work. He also took away state vehicles from department employees that had desk jobs.

He also eliminated the position of deputy commissioner, even though the man holding the job was the son of longtime state Sen. Francis Thompson.

“Taxpayers deserve to get an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay from state workers. As commissioner, I will continue to root out abuses and strive to make ATC one of the most efficiently run agencies in the state,” added Hebert.

Under Hebert’s watch, the ATC workforce has been cut by 33 percent. The agency plans to return $1.2 million to the state this year.

Hebert deserves plaudits for his stewardship with taxpayers’ money. The sad fact is there are too few like him in other agencies in Baton Rouge and around the state.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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