Audit: Jeanerette Marshal May Have Broken Law
A new legislative audit says Jeanerette City Marshal Fernest “Pac Man” Martin may have violated state law in several different ways.
The biggest allegation levied by the audit is that Martin sent his deputies to work private security detail after a hurricane while still paying their salaries.
"In August 2021, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor received a complaint alleging Marshal Fernest Martin sent Jeanerette City Marshal’s Office deputies to work private security details in Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and that those deputies were paid both their regular salaries and for working the private security details for the same time period," auditors wrote in a summary of their findings.
Auditors launched an investigation into those claims. They say they found evidence backing up the allegations.
"Records and statements obtained from third parties with knowledge of the JCMO show that Marshal Martin instructed employees to work private security details in Texas and Lake Charles, Louisiana, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey," auditors said. "From August 30, 2017, to September 26, 2017, the full-time employees who worked private security details were paid their regular wages/salaries, totaling $10,925, without taking leave; used JCMO vehicles to travel to and from these details; and used JCMO fuel cards to purchase fuel totaling $1,790. In addition, it appears that Marshal Martin previously loaned money to the private security company’s representative, who offered to repay the loan with proceeds from the security details JCMO employees worked in Texas and Lake Charles, Louisiana. By allowing JCMO employees and resources to be used for private security details and entering into a transaction with the security company’s representative, Marshal Martin may have violated state law."
Auditors also looked into other areas of the Jeanerette Marshal's Office. They say they found evidence that Martin may have violated state law in other area.
"From January 2012 through June 2021, JCMO improperly paid Marshal Martin $119,639 in overtime and auto allowance payments," auditors wrote in the summary. "fState law prohibits a city marshal from using his office’s funds to fix or supplement his own salary. By using JCMO funds to supplement his salary, Marshal Martin may have violated state law."
The audit also notes that Martin may have violated state law by simultaneously serving as the city's appointed police chief and as the elected city marshal. Auditors also said that Martin may have violated the law by participating in two separate public retirement funds. The final founding noted that Christmas bonuses that Martin paid to his staff may be considered "donations of public funds" and, therefor, illegal.
You can read the full audit here.