LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Calcasieu Parish Tax Assessor Richard Cole has been indicted by a grand jury for two counts of felony malfeasance in office. The indictment comes after an audit revealed misappropriation of funds in the assessor's office over the past two years.
The first count stems from the $48,000 of personal expenses Cole charged to his office credit card. The second count involves $4,000 he was reportedly given for a conference he wound up not attending.
District Attorney John DeRosier says citizens need to have confidence in their elected officials. "I want the public to know that I think it's very, very important that the taxpayers of Calcasieu Parish have complete confidence in their elected officials. It is because of that that we have taken this action at this time and do plan on moving forward with this case just as we would any other criminal prosecution."
Count one of the indictment stems from $48,000 worth of personal expenses Cole charged to his office credit card. Count two has to do with $4000 was given, he said, initially for a conference he wound up not attending.
Also uncovered by the audit, a $2000 a month lease of a suburban for nearly two years paid for by taxpayers. But DeRosier says that does not involve criminal wrongdoing. "There are other things that while we may consider them extremely inappropriate, unreasonable and a misuse of money so to speak, that does not necessarily rise to the level of criminal activity."
In an interview a week ago Cole said he had paid money back and intended to continue on in office. "We have reimbursed all of the money back to the office. We have definitely changed procedures and the way we do things in the office and this will never happen again, " said Cole October 14th. When asked what he would say to anyone who thinks maybe he should resign he responded, "Well, we're working every day to finish our tax roll this year, that's our number one goal and that's what voters voted for me is to complete the tax rolls so we need to complete that for this year."
DeRosier says while the charges are pending there is no requirement for Cole to leave office. We contacted Cole to see if he has any comment regarding the indictment-- we've not yet heard back.
As well, at last word he had not yet turned himself in at the Calcasieu jail.