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State auditor's report highlights potential problems at Livingston Assessor's Office

1 month 3 weeks 2 days ago Monday, November 23 2020 Nov 23, 2020 November 23, 2020 2:45 PM November 23, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - A recent report from the state auditor's office reveals possible issues within the Livingston Parish Assessor's Office.

According to a thorough analysis crafted by Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl G. Purpera officials within the Livingston Parish Assessor's Office had "no policy regarding email retention and no way of demonstrating that you retained all business emails received during the audit period."

In addition to this, Purpera's report says the organization issues vehicles to certain employees, allowing them to use the vehicles for business use. While this in itself is no breach of law, the way one of the vehicles was used concerned the state auditor.

The vehicle in question was assigned to Livingston Assessor Jeffrey Taylor, who told officials he drove the vehicle for both business and personal purposes. Taylor also told the state auditor that he did not record his personal use of the vehicle and had no income imputed to him on his W-2 form for his personal use. 

Additionally, Attorney General Opinion No. 97-25 suggests that for an official in Taylor's capacity to receive compensation above their maximum salary may violate Article VII, Section 14(A) of the Louisiana Constitution.

Taylor defended himself in the audit by explaining that, as an elected official, he is a public servant 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and suggested this allows him to use a public vehicle for all purposes – public and personal – at no cost to him.

The state auditor issued the following recommendations for Taylor and his organization so as to improve their operation and bring it into full compliance with state laws:

-consult with its attorney regarding record retention and confirm that LPA’s practices meet all legal requirements

-contact the Secretary of State to establish a formal record retention schedule to ensure the preservation of all public records

-document and report income to you for personal use of your LPA vehicle as required by the Internal Revenue Service

-seek an Attorney General’s opinion to determine if the income related to the Assessor’s personal use of an LPA vehicle should be counted when determining your maximum salary.

Click here to view the state auditor's full report on the matter. 

Assessor Jeff Taylor released the following statement Monday afternoon. 

The Livingston Parish Assessor’s Office underwent an extensive audit resulting from false accusations made during a very contentious election campaign last year. I personally asked the Legislative Auditor in November 2019 to review the claims to clear my office of any speculation.

I am proud to announce that an 11-month investigation including thorough reviews of more than 10 years of assessment records, accounting records and procedures resulted in no FINDING to support the campaign allegations.

Much credit goes to my dedicated staff for their professionalism and acute attention to details and documentation which confirmed accuracy, fairness, and transparency in all that we do.

The Legislative Auditor’s Nov. 18, 2020, report recommended further review: (1) procedures for junk and spam emails, and (2) documentation regarding office vehicles. It was clearly stated to investigators that the Livingston Parish Assessor’s Office only deleted spam and junk emails, and that all office-related emails are responded to and retained. The office’s auditor affirmed reporting practices for my personal use of an office vehicle complies with federal reporting rules.

I am very pleased to tell the people of Livingston Parish that their Assessor’s Office is professionally, effectively, and honestly managed. The false, politically motivated accusations intended to embarrass me and my staff gave us an opportunity to reaffirm the high level of commitment and professionalism to the people we serve.

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