A new report by the Division of Legislative Audit was released today which shows a troubling trend of many elected officials and government employees misusing taxpayer dollars and receiving no greater punishment than a “warning letter” from prosecutors.
From the report:
Criminal charges were filed in 33 of 246 matters referred to the Prosecuting Attorney. Fourteen cases are pending in court, one case was acquitted or dismissed, and the remaining 18 cases…a conviction was obtained and sentence imposed.
Some of the doozies in the report regarding taxpayer misuse which didn’t receive criminal charges include city of West Memphis officials in 2011 being generous enough with other people’s money to pay country club dues amounting to $3,141 for the Director of Economic Development.
After the matter was referred to the 2nd Judicial Prosecutor’s Office, the Prosecuting Attorney’s solution was, according to the report:
A warning letter was issued advising the Mayor to familiarize himself with the use of funds in compliance with the “public purpose” doctrine. This matter is considered closed.
I’m sure the letter was very sternly worded. However, I wouldn’t advise the average citizen to take a few thousand dollars of someone else’s money, use it on country club fees and then just expect a “warning letter” from authorities.
Other instances of misuse include Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport officials from 2009 to 2011 using funds for “gifts, flowers, club dues, charitable donations, non-employee travel, parties and excessive gratuities.”
No action was taken on this wasteful use of Airport funds, according to the report.
There are tons of more examples in the report, but I’ll conclude with the small town of Sunset. According to the report, $1,285 and $1,700 was paid to the Mayor in 2011 and 2010 above appropriated compensation. Also, nearly $3,000 total was reimbursed to the Mayor in 2011 and 2010 without proper documentation. All this resulted in another one of those “warning letters” from the local prosecutor to the Mayor advising him not to make payments to himself in excess of appropriated amounts or reimburse himself with tax dollars without proper documentation.
Readers who aren’t in government jobs shouldn’t expect to try these stunts and get off so easily.
You can read more from the report here.