In a heated debate, town council discusses separate police bank account in question

WELSH, La. (KLFY) – One alderman is questioning the legality of a separate bank account for the police department and said he’s not getting answers. Others say he just stirring up and issue that’s not there.

In a heated meeting Tuesday night, Alderman Colby Perry questioned if a separate police bank account violated state law. This came as the council was to approve the new budget.

“It is my right to ask questions pertaining to the budget. I did my job and then some people blew it out of the water and it’s ridiculous,” Perry said.

According to City Clerk Stephanie Benoit, the chief of police, city clerk and mayor set up the account for fines and citations outside of the town’s general funds. The funds are split 60 percent for police and 40 percent for the town. The police department’s 60 percent then goes into that separate account.

“I don’t think anything was done wrong I mean nobody’s stolen money, nobody’s squirreled away any money like that. Somebody was putting out a line of information I don’t think was accurate,” Bernard McLaughlin said, Welsh resident.

According to Beniot the account has been audited twice since it was created. She says the legislative auditor also found no reason to question it.
Perry said the police chief did not answer his questions regarding the specifics of his budget, including the salary raises for police officers and the payment of reserve officers. Perry said the chief is over budget 13 percent and this is the second year in a row he’s been over budget.

“He is to provide us with written notification following exceeding 5 percent. At 13 percent he did not provide us with the notification. I just received a letter yesterday dated April 4, 2017,” Perry said.

A video uploaded to YouTube by government activist Theresa Richard shows her picking up a public records request for the budget to see where the money is going.
Richard says Benoit was offensive when she wanted to take a copy of the public record.

“It just didn’t go well. She was upset with me. I tried to ask questions about the budget and she got really offended. I guess the questions offended her,” Richard said.

However, McLaughlin said Beniot has simply been attacked for a crime she did not commit.

“Stephanie Benoit, she is a good person, with three kids. She’s married. And it’s horrendous when you read these emails she’s gotten,” McLaughlin said.

The council did approve the budget Tuesday night.
Aldermans Perry and Andrea King voted no saying they both still have questions.

“It was too vague. The income balance sheet is probably a half inch thick. But the budget presented tonight is only two pages. There has to be transparency here in Welsh,” Perry said.

“All the people in the town of Welsh needs somebody to step up and say look this is not the community we are,” McLaughlin said.

The new budget gives the Welsh Police Department a $253 thousand increase.
The police chief and the city clerk declined to comment.

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