State Audit looks into possible violations in Westlake - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

State audit looks into possible violations in Westlake

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Westlake Mayor Daniel Cupit Westlake Mayor Daniel Cupit
WESTLAKE, LA (KPLC) -

The Louisiana State Legislative Auditor's Office has released findings from its annual audit of the City of Westlake.

According to the audit, Westlake Mayor Dan Cupit may have violated state law by appointing department heads without approval of the city council.

The audit showed that Cupit improperly appointed Lonnie Smart as the city's director of finance and then as the city's chief administrative officer.

It also shows that Cupit improperly appointed Jimmy Ashworth as the director of finance.

Another portion of the audit reveals that some city vehicles were improperly marked and that Cupit used a city vehicle to attend Sabine River Authority board meetings without approval of the council. The Sabine River Authority meets at its office on Toledo Bend, west of Many. Cupit is a member of the board.

In response, Cupit said he now uses his personal vehicle to attend SRA meetings and that all city vehicles are properly marked.

The audit also found that Cupit had emergency blue flashing lights installed on his city vehicle, which is in violation of state law.

Cupit said the emergency lights have since been removed from his vehicle.

In his response to auditors, Cupit also said Ashworth is now the city accountant and Smart has been reassigned to another position within in City Hall and has no supervisory responsibility.

The last of the major issues auditors found was that Lonnie Smart had ben improperly paid $1,038 for compensatory leave he did not earn.

Cupit told auditors that Smart was paid 39 more hours than he should have been and is in the process of paying the City of Westlake back.

KPLC did reach out to Cupit for comment but our calls were not returned. Meanwhile, several city council members have shared their thoughts on the audit findings.

Council Member and Westlake Mayor Pro-Tempore, Wally Anderson, said:

"As the investigation of the Administration Department of the city is still ongoing, I can't really comment on the audit report, but I would like to say this. 

Over the last few years, the citizens of Westlake have either seen or heard of all the arguing and in-fighting between the Administration and three members of the city council. In the audit report, you will find some of the things, not all of the things, which have caused this friction between us. This Administration shows a complete lack of budgetary control and has no transparency with the three council members.

The Mayor has stated numerous times that this investigation was started because of a personal vendetta between John Cradure and me. I can assure the citizens of Westlake that if there was not sufficient evidence presented to the D.A. and the Sheriff, they would never have started an investigation. I don't believe that the D.A. or the Sheriff would jeopardize the integrity of their respective offices or their employees over a so called personal vendetta.

In closing, I would like the citizens of Westlake know that John Cradure, Bob Hardey and myself stand behind the council comments to the audit report and are going to continue do the jobs that we were elected to do."

Councilman John Cradure said:

The investigation is still ongoing and once complete, all of the findings will be turned over to the D.A. for further action. We know Mr. Smart was using the City Credit card for personal use, such as taking vacations as well as paying for a female companion to accompany him to Washington D.C. and paid it back only after much pressure to do so.

These actions is what launched the investigation into the wrong doings at City Hall. The Audit report found the rest of the items upon their arrival.

It is very complicated in nature and we ask for the patience of the citizens of Westlake as we work to correct the wrongs that they have been forced to bare.

They have my promise that every dime of the public monies that were misappropriated by this administration shall be returned to the public coffers. The city of Westlake has a very bright future and it is time for the Council and the Administration to work together for the betterment of our community but, it is the fiduciary responsibility of the duly elected council to be good stewards of the citizens hard earned money. We must have transparency and as you can see by the report, this is currently not the case."

Councilman Bob Hardey:

"The council had questions that were not being answered on a monthly basis. We need to let the auditors and others do their jobs. So we are now waiting for their investigation as we want to be sure the citizens of Westlake are aware of our concern."

Meanwhile, council members Lori Peterson and Dan Racca submitted letters to auditors saying they were not consulted in the council's response to auditors. Both Peterson and Racca said they were available if the auditors had further questions.

To read the audit report, just go to http://app1.lla.state.la.us/PublicReports.nsf.

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