It's not exactly a tough act to follow. The last two Calcasieu tax assessors left office in disgrace. Now, Wendy Curphy Aguillard has been elected to office and taken the oath.
But, the past two assessors wound up convicted of crimes after betraying the public trust while on the job. As the new tax assessor until at least January 2017, Aguillard promises honesty and integrity as long as she's in charge.
It was a day to celebrate for Aguillard as she was sworn in as the newly elected Calcasieu Tax Assessor. And as she took the oath of office she promised to uphold the laws of the state. "According to the best of my ability and understanding, so help me God,"she said before family, friends and coworkers.
Yet, her two predecessors did not fulfill their oaths. It's been nearly ten years since Kenny Darnsteadt was convicted of tax evasion after an elaborate scheme came to light of how he raked in hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars over and above the salary he was paid. Then Darnsteadt's successor, Richard Cole, winds up pleading guilty to malfeasance in office for breaching the public trust by using public money for personal use-- though he has made restitution.
Though Aguillard was working in the office, she says she was unaware of what Cole was doing. "I had no way of knowing what was happening. Mr. Cole alone was the one involved, as far as the credit card, and writing checks. And so, therefore, there was no way anyone else in the office could have known what was going on."
Aguillard says as long as she's in charge the office will be run properly. "From how the bank statements and bills are opened and paid to how checks are written and who writes them."
As well, Aguillard says she's committed to serving the public well. Next year property values will be re-evaluated as required every four years. "We are committed to assessing the property of the people of Calcasieu Parish in a fair and equitable manner, for everyone."
She says people should get at least six months notice of any increase in their property tax bill.
Aguillard's swearing in today was for Richard Cole's unexpired term. She'll be sworn in again when her first four year term starts in January 2013. Cole is to be sentenced on December 9th.