Investigative Unit report catches the attention of state investigators
PLAQUEMINE - The State Legislative Auditor is worried laws may have been broken after the Investigative Unit uncovered a local fire chief is using his tax payer issued vehicle for personal business.
Routinely, you'll find Chief Mackie Guillot nearly 30-40 minutes out of town on Mondays through Fridays outside Baton Rouge Magnet High School. That's where his son attends school.
We went looking for answers Monday after phone calls to the newly sworn in Plaquemine Mayor were ignored. We found her outside city hall and wanted to ask her about our report last week. We asked whether she gave Chief Guillot permission to use his taxpayer unit to pick up his son.
"Yes, I did," Mayor Mary Sue Gulotta said. "We have an attorney general's ruling, it's not illegal he's 24 hours."
The opinion she's referencing is very familiar to State Legislative Auditor Darryl Purpera. He believes the chief is walking a fine line on using a taxpayer funded vehicle for personal business.
"You can't donate public funds to anyone," Purpera said. "If it is ruled to be that it would be compensation of this individual which there are IRS rules that deal with that."
Since Guillot is the fire chief, he's allowed to run incidental errands in his city issued vehicle. But, according to Purpera, that does not include daily scheduled trips for personal business out of town. The liability of having a non-city employee in the unit is also a problem.
"It gives me concern that this is not occasional or incidental use, but more personal use of the vehicle," Purpera said. "If it's personal use, than that may run afoul of the constitution."
We reached out to the entire Plaquemine City Council. At least four of the six members we talked to said they are not comfortable with the chief using his city-issued unit to pick his son up from school, and they want it to end now.
Our investigation revealed that Guillot's son is enrolled at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, even though the chief and his wife claim a homestead exemption at a primary residence in Plaquemine. This is happening as nearly 500 students sit on a waiting list to get into that school.
That doesn't sit well with residents like Stanley Scott of Plaquemine.
"He shouldn't do that," Scott said. "That was wrong for him to do something like that."
Tonight, the mayor continues to maintain the chief is doing nothing wrong.
"It's not illegal, he's on call 24 hours," Gulotta maintained. "I suggest you talk to the city attorney."
As the mayor drove away from answering our questions, tonight there are two entities looking into this. The East Baton Rouge Parish School System is worried since the chief claims residency out of the parish, and we watched them leaving from that home. The state is also concerned about possible misuse of taxpayer money.
Following our interview with the mayor, the City of Plaquemine released the following statement:
"Fire Chief Mackie Guillot is a full-time salaried employee who is on call 24 hours, seven days a week. He is provided a vehicle because of the demands of this position. The occasional personal use of the vehicle is legal and expected, and is outweighed by him being on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Tonight, the East Baton Rouge Parish School System said it is continuing its investigation. It's unclear how much longer it will take.