20th Judicial District Judge William Carmichael issued warrants for the arrests of Shirley and Kent charging each with one count of racketeering, theft in the amount of $65,235, malfeasance in office, six counts each of public contract fraud, 15 counts of filing or maintaining false public records and 196 counts of money laundering. Both were arrested without incident.
“This has been hard for the community. I have known both of them for years and never would have thought that this would've been something I'd have seen from either one of them," said Clinton Mayor Don Reason. "I wish our Finance Committee Chairwoman (Loria Ann Bell) would have focused more on real stewardship of our public funds instead of making a show of challenging town gas receipts. If so, this would never have reached this level.”
Clinton Police Chief Eddie Stewart said the investigation started when his office received information of possible wrong doing from the State Treasurer’s Office. Stewart said investigators began as far back as 2008 and focused on three grants and three appropriations from the state totaling $65,235 over a five-year period.
According to Stewart, the investigators learned that while Shirley was employed by Clinton as the Main Street Program manager, she formed the not-for-profit organization “Friends of Clinton Main Street.”
Instead of depositing the funds into the Clinton Main Street Program's accounts at Landmark Bank, Kent deposited the funds into the “Friends of Clinton Main Street” account of which Shirley was listed as president and Kent listed as treasurer of the documents.
Investigators said the funds were used for personal expenses such as travel, phones, newspapers and utilities according to statements made by Shirley.
Interviews conducted by Clinton police and the Office of Inspector General, with members of the Town Council, reveal that none of the expenses were approved by the Town of Clinton, nor was any contract approved between the town of Clinton and Friends of Clinton Main Street to conduct business on the town's behalf.
A review of bank records subpoenaed by 20th Judicial District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla shows that 75 percent of all funds collected by the non-profit were for payments to Shirley, and five percent went to Kent. The remaining 20 percent were spent in support of the Louisiana Arts and Artist Guild-Feliciana Chapter and the Clinton Blueberry Festival, the investigation revealed.
In records obtained by the Clinton PD, the period of Jan. 1, 2008 thru Sept. 24, 2012, shows Kent issued 54 checks from 'Friends of Clinton Main Street' to the Town of Clinton in payment of a "manager’s salary" for $36,227.07.
During the time period covered by the investigation, Shirley was also paid $107,524.83 by the Town of Clinton.
Records also indicate Kent issued 119 payments to Shirley directly from the 'Friends of Main Street' account in the amount of $40,5493.33 for art show prizes, travel, phone, newspaper and utility expenses and various other reimbursements.
In addition, that same period shows Shirley issued 10 checks totaling $5,104.39 to Kent for art show prizes, postage, virus software and accounting services.
The same 2008-12 period shows 'Friends of Clinton Main Street' received various donations totaling a minimum of $36,880.52 from Entergy, the Exxon Retiree Share Program, Landmark Bank, Feliciana Bank, the Baton Rouge Arts Council, the Louisiana Arts and Artist Guild and numerous business and community leaders. The donations were co-mingled with public funds from the Town of Clinton for a total of $102,112.52.
Judge Carmichael also issued a warrant seizing four accounts at Landmark Bank totaling $4,727.57, which are being held pending forfeiture.
Chief Stewart said that early on in the investigation he consulted with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but investigators say no federal funds were utilized in the alleged fraud.
Stewart said he is grateful for the assistance provided by the OIG. “This investigation has been a hard one for the mayor, our investigator and myself. The mayor has had to endure threats and even had his wife’s job threatened over this investigation," said Stewart. "One of the investigators has been the neighbor of one of these ladies for more than 30 years, and I'm in the same position...I know them and their husbands. But we are a professional organization and show no favoritism in conducting our investigations. We follow the truth where it leads us, and we do what the law requires of us.”