Westlake's Cupit may have violated state law on several occasions

By By Natalie Stewart / American Press

“Proof of unlawful acts” had become apparent to some members of the Westlake City Council within the past year, according

to a response sent to the state Legislative Auditor about an investigation into the city’s finances.

The investigative audit found that city vehicles were improperly marked and being improperly used, Mayor Dan Cupit had blue

lights improperly installed on his city vehicle, the mayor made improper appointments of department heads and there was an

improper compensatory leave payment made to the chief administrative officer.

Wally Anderson, mayor pro-tempore, who responded to the audit on behalf of the council, said the council had requested monthly

financial statements for several years but never received any.

“If the council had received these reports, as required by law, many of the (infractions) could possibly have been prevented,”

Anderson said.

Council members Lori Manuel and Dan

Racca said in letters to the state auditor they were not contacted for

input nor did they

participate in the letter that was submitted to the state on

behalf of the council and that “comments, statements, and accusations

contained within the (letter) are not an accurate representation

of the entire council.”

The audit said Cupit used a city

vehicle for personal trips. Anderson said in his response to the state

that the council addressed

this issue with Cupit twice during his time as mayor.

“The first occasion was during his first term in office and the issue was resolved,” according to a prepared statement. “The

situation reemerged and it was again readdressed on several occasions, involving other administrative employees.”

Anderson said in response to city vehicles not being properly marked that “as mayor of the City of Westlake, it is (Cupit’s)

responsibility to know these requirements.” He said the council did not budget for the lights and that “the city should be

reimbursed for all cost associated with the equipment including the installation and removal.”

According to the audit, Cupit also may have violated state law on several occasions by appointing department heads without

council approval.

Anderson said that Cupit implemented a restructuring plan, which included the position of chief administrative officer, for

city hall staff without council approval.

“The mayor was informed that these

positions did not exist in the city’s policy and procedure manual that

lists all job positions

and job duties for each position,” he said. “These positions and

their (respective) job duties must be approved by the governing

body of the city, which is the city council.”

Anderson said the council requested a list of CAO job duties, but never received them.

In 2010, more than $1,000 in compensatory leave was improperly paid to the chief administrative officer, Lonnie Smart, according

to the audit.

Anderson said “money for compensatory

leave has never been budgeted by the council. We believe that if

compensatory leave

is to be paid to an employee, it has to be brought back to the

council for approval so the budget can be amended to reflect

the changes.”

Cupit said Smart is working to pay back the difference of the improper payment.

In November 2012, the council unanimously approved the city’s budget, which eliminated $49,000 in funding for Smart’s position

as chief administrative officer, citing that the city had to trim its budget and no longer needed the CAO position.

Anderson said that although funding had been eliminated for the CAO post, Smart continues to receive the same salary and the

council has still not received monthly financial statements.

Cupit said Smart has since been reassigned to another position within the general and administration department, but confirmed

that he is still being paid a salary of $49,000.

The audit was initiated after allegations by Anderson and fellow councilman John Cradure that said Smart had been using a

city credit card for personal use; according to the audit report, Smart had paid the city back for the improper purchases

before the investigation began.

Cupit said in a statement to the American Press, “Smart was immediately cleared and our teammates (Cradure and Anderson) then turned on their city with policy and compliance

issues.”

“Common sense should have dictated that they bring their concerns to City Hall and corrections could have been made internally,”

Cupit said.

Councilman Bob Hardey said council members aren’t “going after anyone.”

“The deal is, if you know about something then you can’t just sit around and act like you didn’t know about it if you’re on

the council,” he told the American Press. “We want everyone in the community to understand that we had our doubts and we wanted to make sure everything was OK. We

just wanted to make sure everything was clean and that the budget was correct.”

Cradure said that the investigation into the city continues; once it’s complete findings will be turned over to the District

Attorney’s Office for further action.

“(The investigation) is very

complicated in nature and we ask for the patience of the (residents) of

Westlake as we work to

correct the wrongs that they have been forced to bear,” Cradure

said in a emailed statement. “They have my promise that every

dime of the public monies that were misappropriated by this

administration shall be returned to the public coffers.”

Cradure said it is the “fiduciary responsibility of the duly elected council to be good stewards of the citizens’ hard earned

money.”

Anderson said in an emailed statement

that “over the last few years the citizens of Westlake have either seen

or heard of

all the arguing and in-fighting between the administration and

three members of the city council. In the audit, you will find

some of the things, not all of the things, which have caused this

friction between us. This administration shows complete

lack of budgetary control and has no transparency with the three

council members.”

Racca said he had no comment on the matter and Lori Manuel couldn’t be reached for comment.

Holly Carter, spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, said the DA has received the audit and it is under review.