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Monday, September 01, 2014
Southwest Louisiana ,
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Audit finds fault with Vernon Council on Aging

Last Modified: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 1:14 PM

By Lauren Manary / American Press

The Vernon Parish Council on Aging may have violated state ethics laws when it promoted the executive director’s daughter to chief financial officer, according to a report issued by the state Legislative Auditor’s Office.

The report, released Monday, also said the office engaged in prohibited contractual agreements to several employees for work unrelated to their duties, leading to a failure to pay taxes on those additional wages.

In 2006, Executive Director Marvis Chance hired his daughter, Lila Abshier, for part-time employment and promoted her to CFO in 2009. According to the report, her hiring may be a violation of state nepotism laws.

“With GOD as my witness,” reads a letter from Chance to the auditor included in the report, “I can claim with all sincerity that I have in no manner shown Ms. Abshier any favoritism and I would not hesitate to either discipline or reprimand her if in fact this should have ever been needed.”

Abshier has since been moved so that Chance is no longer her direct supervisor and no longer has access to the signature card the organization uses for banking. In the letter to the auditors, Chance said Abshier is “sorely needed, as no one else knows how to perform this capacity or the various and sundry computer programs she skillfully manages.”

He said that because the board of directors unanimously approved Abshier for the position, it should not be considered an ethics violation.

Three employees were found to have been compensated for contractual work outside of their regular duties. State law mandates that “no public servant shall bid on or enter into any contract, subcontract or other transaction that is under the supervision or jurisdiction of the agency of such public servant.”

“I know ignorance for the law is no excuse,” said Chance. “But I was unaware that it was illegal as for the contractual part.”

One part-time office assistant received an additional $62,111 from June 30, 2010, to June 26, 2013, for janitorial and transportation services. The transit director, a former mechanic, was compensated $5,139 for vehicle maintenance from June 2010 to March of this year, and an office manager earned $1,598 for washing vehicles March 2011-August 2012.

The state auditor recommended the group consult legal counsel and the state Ethics Board.

Online: www.lla.state.la.us.

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