Assessor Cole released on bond

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA. (KPLC) - On Thursday Calcasieu Parish Tax Assessor Richard Cole was released on a $10,000 bond just hours after being accused of misusing tens of thousands of dollars of tax payer money.

Cole turned himself in to the Calcasieu Correctional Center after a grand jury indicted him on 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.

Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier said the audit found several problem areas in the Tax Assessor's, but that there were only two areas where public money was being used for personal expenses.

"Writing the check in the amount of $4,140 for a personal expense that was not an office related expense and the second was a number of items totaling about $48,000 that resulted from credit card purchases that were all of a personal nature, not of a business nature connected to that office," said DeRosier. "Of that $48,000, $36,000 remained outstanding and unpaid at the time that the audit was done by the independent auditor in June and July of 2010."

In an interview on October 14th, Cole said he paid the money back and planned to continue working in the 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.

DeRosier said an independent auditor will help to assure that the assessors office is financially well managed.

DeRosier expects Cole to be in court within 30 to 45 days for arraignment. Cole would only be forced to leave office if he is convicted of a crime.

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