ST. LANDRY PARISH, La. (KLFY) – A State Legislative Audit Report inquires whether or not the Mayor of Opelousas may have violated state law. In August 2016, Mayor Reggie Tatum earned overtime working at shelter at the Opelousas Civic Center during the flood. The recent audit cites the money the mayor earned caused the mayor’s salary to exceed the salary approved for him by the council.
Mayor Tatum speaks to KLFY News about the audit report that was recently released. In August, St. Landry Parish was declared a federal disaster making them eligible for assistance. The state auditor’s field work involved what Mayor Tatum earned at the flood shelter as a director.
The audit report states the mayor received $12,973 in overtime pay for the 22 days the shelter was operating. Mayor Tatum says at the advisement of legal counsel, a consultant and a couple of FEMA representatives he understood that he would be reimbursed. “They said yes, that it was in order. They looked at my paperwork and said go on turn your time sheets in for everyone and not just myself,” says Tatum.
The mayor says it was at a FEMA meeting in Baton Rouge where he learned about the Disaster Procedure for Reimbursement. “This is my 5th shelter that I have run and I had never heard that before until I went to the meeting. When they told us this I had no reason to doubt it,” explains the mayor.
The auditor’s report says the mayor cites another policy called an “Administrative Order” that allows him to earn overtime given council approval and not to exceed 20 percent. The auditor states Tatum failed to meet both the council’s approval and the 20 percent limitation.
The mayor admits he knew nothing about the nearly 77 year old administrative order. Tatum explains he only learned about the order from another city executive who stumbled across it searching for something else.
Tatum says it’s impossible to know about every single policy that’s why he relies on expert advice to make his decisions. “I had no reason to doubt that these professionals: FEMA, consultants and legal counsel. I had no reason to doubt them. I was just following what they told me,” adds Tatum.
The auditor explains that four council members performed work at the shelter. Checks were issued but not negotiated as of to date.