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The Louisiana Legislative Auditor has begun an investigative audit of the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney's Office, the auditor's office confirmed on Monday.

The overall mission of the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's office is to help ensure that government is responsive to the needs of the people of Louisiana — a government that is accountable, efficient and effective. Simply put, the auditor's main job is overseeing state and local government finances.

While the auditor's office was tight-lipped about exactly what was being examined in the investigative audit, which could take weeks or months to complete, it could be any number of programs or issues regarding the DA's Office.

A controversial gift card program once used by the DA's office — and which has been stopped for the most part — as well as other programs, could be looked into during the investigative audit.

District Attorney John DeRosier has said he started the District Attorney's Community Christmas Program about 12 years ago, allowing people to donate toys to offset their community service. Those toys, he said, would be distributed annually to all six municipalities. The program grew exponentially over the years.

"We had two big rooms in the DA's office; one year we gave away probably $60,000 worth of Christmas toys," DeRosier said. "We had more toys than we knew what to do with. We had to store them all year long."

At some point, his office began migrating to accepting gift cards instead of toys. Those gift cards, DeRosier said, would be used at the end of the year to purchase Christmas toys for donation.

The program was later criticized because of how the gift cards and money orders were documented.

"I wasn't directly supervising it," DeRosier acknowledged.

DeRosier said it was around 2015 when an employee notified him that the gift cards were not being managed well and of there not being "appropriate record keeping."

He said he then contacted his auditor, Lester Langley, who gathered all the leftover gift cards that had built up over the years.

"We had over $100,000 worth of gift cards floating around misdemeanor probation and our pretrial diversion departments," DeRosier said.

In November 2019 the 14th Judicial District Court judges sent a letter to DeRosier, telling his office to stop letting defendants buy gift cards and money orders in exchange for court-ordered community service.

DeRosier later said that the letter from the judges "wasn't unanticipated," and that he did not blame them for taking that position on the matter.

The gift card program is no longer used for misdemeanor probation but will continue as part of the pretrial diversion program, DeRosier said at that time.

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