Calcasieu Tax Assessor Richard Cole to resign

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Calcasieu Parish Tax Assessor Richard Cole will be resigning his position effective January 15, 2011.

The following statement was released by Cole's attorney on Tuesday:

"It has been an honor to serve the citizens of Calcasieu Parish as your Assessor. Recent events have made it clear to me that it is in the best interests of Calcasieu Parish, the Assessor's Office and my family that I resign from office. Today, I have instructed my attorney to forward my letter to the Secretary of State's office tendering my resignation, effective January 15, 2011.

"I am grateful for the many expressions of support, friendship and concern that have been extended to me during the past weeks. They have meant more to me than I can say.

"The issues which are before me will be addressed in due course and are mine alone; the citizens of Calcasieu Parish should know that they have been well served by the current staff of the Assessor's Office. They are all selfless and dedicated public servants who have continued to perform their essential duties with a singular focus on completing the tax rolls in an accurate and professional manner."

Cole's attorney was in court back on November 22 where he entered a plea of not guilty on two counts of felony malfeasance in office.

Cole was indicted back in October after an audit revealed he used the office American Express card for more than $48,000 in personal expenses. Cole is also accused of writing a check for $4,100 for an expense that was not office related.

With his office under the cloud of his indictment, Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier says Cole's decision is appropriate.

"The public needs to have confidence in its elected officials and when that confidence is eroding, then we need to do anything we can to short stop that erosion and maintain that public confidence," said DeRosier.

According to DeRosier, Cole apparently wanted to stay on until the end of the year. "He wanted to finish out the job for preparing the tax rolls for the 2010 - 2011 and fulfill that obligation," said DeRosier.

Cole's trial is set for May 16th. DeRosier won't speculate whether Cole might get time in jail if convicted.

"In theory the prosecution will still go forward as normal. There won't be any changes, however once Mr. Cole is no longer in the office and this case is not so much in the limelight it will be handled like any other criminal case and you will have a defendant who will go to trial or go to whatever level he chooses in that process," explained DeRosier.

Meanwhile, DeRosier said the Deputy Assistant Assessor is expected to take over. There's no need for a special election since there's less than a year left in Cole's term.

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