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Coroner’s office audit reveals negative findings

by Minden Press-Herald

Audit reports for the 2013 and 2014 fiscal years have been released for the Webster Parish Coroner’s Office, and following the arrest of former deputy coroner Glenda Lewis, additional findings were revealed.

On Aug. 24, 2015, Lewis was arrested for felony theft and malfeasance in office. Webster Parish Sheriff’s investigators discovered $2,650 was overbilled for services and $1,012.50 was overbilled or double billed for mileage to jurisdictions in the parish, all of which was paid to the coroner’s office, according to the 2013 report’s supplemental information.

“Ms. Lewis was personally reimbursed approximately $3,547.35 by a private employer for mileage reimbursements, while she was operating the coroner’s public vehicle,” the report states. “This amount was not deposited into the Webster Parish Coroner’s accounts.”

In addition to her arrests, the 2013 and 2014 reports reveal late submission of review reports, lack of segregation of duties, failure to adopt a budget and inadequate controls over disbursements.

In the 2014 report, auditors made recommendations to correct these issues, and for each finding is a management’s response. As for the late submission of a review report, the coroner’s office agreed with the findings, “and although late, is filing reports for 2013 and 2014 to get current before the newly elected coroner takes office.”

The audit report for 2015 is not due until June 30, officials with the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office say, adding governmental entities are allowed six months from fiscal year end to submit their audits.

For the lack of segregation of duties, current Coroner Dr. Carlos Irizzary says in the audit he is aware of the problem and has implemented steps for checks and balances.

Among those steps are making all deposits to the bank account, actively reviewing all bills paid at the time of signing checks and the coroner is the only one with access to the bank account.

“The new bookkeeper has been instructed to maintain files in an organized manner,” according to the report. “Starting in September 2015, the coroner began active reviews of billings for services.”

As for not adopting a budget, Irizarry told auditors a budget for the 2014 fiscal year had been filed with the Webster Parish Police Jury.

These were repeat findings for both years.

The vehicle used for the coroner’s office has been returned to the police jury. Officials with the police jury office say they will return to the former system by paying for mileage using their personal vehicles.

The police jury is responsible for paying any fees for autopsies, investigation and body viewing within their jurisdiction; the coroner is paid a minimal monthly salary plus health insurance.

The police jury also provides office space for the coroner, and helps pay for some office expenses.
Each municipality is responsible for paying those same fees within their jurisdiction.

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