Mayor Freddie Boswell emphasized repeatedly, at the New Llano Town Council meeting on Tuesday, that Police Chief Danny Hunt is solely responsible for his budget.
This statement essentially places blame on Hunt for the loss of 90 percent of the New Llano Police force on Jan. 2 when council voted to amend the town budget. That amendment meant cuts to the police department and the entire dispatch team.
During the pre-council meeting on Tuesday, New Llano resident Jonathan Turner stood at the podium and addressed Boswell and Council. “I’ll get the elephant out of the room,” he said. “Why would the police force get nixed in a community like this? You said traffic citations was the number one revenue source, then you cut off your police force, cutting off that revenue. Kind of seems oxymoronic.”
Boswell responded saying, “There’s a lot of talk about the budget. The auditor is going to explain in thorough detail about the audit.”
Near the end of the council meeting, New Llano Town Accountant, Steven Kimball, CPA, addressed the audience instead of council, at the mayor’s request. He reported from what Boswell called the audit.
Kimball explained that if the actual revenue is less than the budget’s revenue by greater than 5%, the town council must amend the budget. Likewise, if actual expenses are greater than the budget’s expenses, they must amend it. “That’s the basics of the law,” said Kimball.
Councilman R.J. Fertitta voiced his opinion, questioning why the budget does not account for police officers’ salaries. “It should be in the budget that we present, that if the police department doesn’t write a ticket for a year, we can still pay them,” said Fertitta.
Kimball responded saying the annual budget is a projection based on trends in the previous year.
Even though Hunt is, according to Boswell, solely responsible for the police department budget, he said he does not have access to it. “I get a ticket count every month on how many tickets are issued and how many they want to make budget,” he said.
New Llano Town Clerk Donna Condon wrote in an email that she is the only person who has access to the accounting software. “All department heads can get all the information that the want, whether it be five times a day or one time a month,” she said. “The chief has never asked for any financial paperwork that I can remember.”
During the pre-council meeting, New Llano resident Rick Turner said, “What I hear are two different things. It’s been pointed toward Danny, and you’re saying he asked for additional police officers. But if they weren’t in that budget, then who approved the budget?”
Boswell responded, “He knew he had to raise his budget up to stay in guidelines.”
Then Turner, “But you guys are in charge of that budget.”
And Boswell again, “No sir. He’s supposed to keep up with his own budget.”
According to Hunt, the police department is instructed to keep up with a citation quota in order to maintain the budget.. “We are supposed to average five tickets per person per shift,” he said.
Boswell reiterated this assertion, as indicated in an audio recording made prior to the special council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 2. In the recording, he recommended to Hunt that Officer Kelly Anderson be let go first due to lack of citations, and Alex Vasquez should go next for the same reason.
Ironically, Vasquez is currently the only remaining New Llano officer in the department.
Condon says she prepares the budget for the town. “I always have (Kimball) help me to double check my numbers in each department to make sure it’s all in line,” she stated.
Jennifer Shay, a lawyer for the Louisiana Legislative Auditor told the Leesville Daily Leader, “If you prepare the books, you can’t audit the books.” In order for an audit to be performed, the town would have to hire an independent CPA approved by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor, Shay said.
Boswell emphasized at the meeting that the town’s General Fund is completely separate from the police department’s. Contrary to this assertion, a pay stub provided by a recently laid off New Llano Police Officer shows that the check was cut from the town’s General Fund.
“The checks have always come from the General Fund,” said Hunt.
Condon said this is due to the nature of the computer program she uses. “The QuickBooks program I use has you set up companies. I have one for Utility and one that is General,” she stated. “The utility company has all the water, sewer, etc bank accounts and the General has all the General bank accounts, such as sales tax, Park, Fire Department, magistrate, General, etc. The auditor always refers to everything except water department items as the General funds.”
The next New Llano Town Council meeting takes place at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 27.