Report: Money transfer to former tourism director unapproved

A misunderstanding.

That’s the reason commissioners with the Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau gave auditors as to why former executive director Lynn Dorsey was paid $2,400 more than the board approved for retirement benefits in 2016.

In the WPCVB’s financial review conducted by Wise, Martin and Cole, LLC and released this week by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office, auditors noted the bureau paid $6,000 to Dorsey’s retirement account last year.

In the report, auditors noted that according to an employee benefit plan established by commissioners in 2012, the maximum Dorsey could have received for a year is $3,600.

The benefit plan says the bureau will match contributions up to $300 a month for Dorsey and up to $200 a month for executive assistant Johnnye Kennon.

Auditors said they found no written documentation that Dorsey should have received more than the maximum allowed.

The deposit was not authorized, which was done electronically and did not require two signatures as with checks, the commission said in a response to auditors. They also plan to put procedures in place that will require approval by the commission for electronic drafts from the bureau’s account.

The commission said it appears to be a misunderstanding on Dorsey’s ability to use additional funds after uncovering emails between Dorsey and commissioner Ty Pendergrass and chairman Jerry Madden.

In the emails, obtained by the Press-Herald through a public records request, Dorsey asked Pendergrass about using the remaining funds budgeted toward retirement benefits before the end the bureau’s fiscal year.

Pendergrass tells Dorsey that he would need to talk to Madden about it first, but later tells her he didn’t mind if she went on and talked to Madden about the issue. Dorsey then emailed Madden asking about using the funds, but no response was provided.

The commission never authorized Dorsey to use the funds, according to meeting minutes. Had the funds remained unused, they would have rolled back into the bureau’s general fund when the new fiscal year started in January.

Madden referred all questions regarding the report to commission attorney Steven Oxenhandler.

“The WPCVC takes responsibility for this incident, which will not re-occur in the future,” Oxenhandler said in an emailed statement.

Lydia M. Rhodes, attorney for Dorsey released a statement saying, “We trust the bureau’s auditor was satisfied with the bureau’s responses. Although Mrs. Dorsey was no longer at the bureau, she cooperated with the bureau in responding to the auditor’s inquiry.”

Dorsey was fired by the commission in February after she made national headlines in December when she live-streamed a nude video of herself to the bureau’s Instagram account while in Baton Rouge for a tourism conference.

Following the broadcast, Dorsey, who was 61 at the time, said the incident was “an honest mistake” that was meant for her husband.
Dorsey filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the commission in April and hoped to get her job back, which she had held since 2004, with reinstatement retroactive to Feb. 13.

Both sides reached a settlement in July and Dorsey received a check from the bureau in the amount of $35,342. The commission also paid $2,100 into Dorsey’s retirement fund to drop the suit.

Tourism gets the bulk of its funding from an occupancy tax collected from people who stay at hotels and motels in the parish. It also gets some state funding.

The commission’s next scheduled meeting is set for Thursday.

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