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Corruption watchdogs question move giving Council on Aging CEO full access to checkbook

11 months 4 weeks 8 hours ago Monday, May 22 2023 May 22, 2023 May 22, 2023 5:30 PM May 22, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Corruption watchdogs think there are bad optics and ethical questions after the Council on Aging Board voted to allow Tasha Clark Amar to be the only one who signs checks at the agency.

On Friday, employees at the East Baton Rouge Council on Aging started ringing alarm bells about this. Two signatures on expenditures are no longer required, and employees said Clark Amar needs more oversight, not less.

"However you frame it, this is reduced oversight," LSU Law Professor Ken Levy said. "Reduced oversight is not the direction anybody should be moving in. We see this from the federal, to the state to the local level. There's a lot of corruption out there among our public officials and the direction we should be moving in at all levels is increased oversight."

Clark Amar was exposed by the WBRZ Investigative Unit in 2017 after she named herself in an elderly client's will. A series of stories led to tremendous fallout. When the dust settled, Clark Amar backed away from the will.

Recently, an employee came to the WBRZ Investigative Unit expressing concerns about what happened. One employee spoke with us on condition of anonymity and said the situation smells awful.

"I do not believe based upon what happened in the past with a senior and Ms. Amar possibly manipulating her out of her personal money, being able to only sign checks," the employee said. "Being the only signature required for the Council on Aging."

The change was made during an April board meeting. During that meeting it was discussed that the bank no longer requires two signatures, so the COA was planning to remove that requirement too.

"I do not think it is wise at all considering what happened in the past," the employee said. "Ms. Amar is just very insistent upon being the only one to sign checks for the Council on Aging."

"It's not good optics," Levy said. "It's not good ethics. It's just not right."

An attorney for the COA, Murphy Foster, issued the following statement:

There is no proof that she controls the board, and they do what's right for the Council on Aging. Regarding her check signing authority... the board granted her that authority to sign checks of routine nature on her own. Extraordinary expenses still require two signatures.

WBRZ asked what defines an extraordinary expenditure, but the COA did not give us an answer.

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