No charges suggested in review of $55K in missing equipment
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s attorney general isn’t recommending prosecution of two former Wildlife and Fisheries workers who were accused of keeping state-owned equipment for personal use that was bought with oil spill recovery money.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Jeff Landry said Tuesday the office isn’t suggesting that Baton Rouge’s district attorney pursue charges against Eric Newman and Monique Savoy.
“Our office thoroughly investigated this complaint and determined there is currently insufficient evidence for a successful prosecution,” Ruth Wisher said in a statement.
A June 2017 investigative report from Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera’s office said auditors looking for $55,000 in missing state-owned fishing equipment believe they found many of the items with Newman and Savoy, who are married and own a charter fishing company.
“The evidence seems to suggest that they never did anything wrong and that they were good employees of Wildlife and Fisheries,” the couple’s lawyer, Vincent Wynne, said Tuesday.
The missing equipment — such as high-end coolers, rods and reels, binoculars, a paddle board and spear guns — was bought by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries using money from BP PLC after the massive 2010 Gulf Coast oil spill.
The money was supposed to pay for seafood safety testing.
Auditors said the equipment couldn’t be located after Newman and Savoy left the office in January 2014. The couple had items totaling $19,762 that matched descriptions of the missing equipment in their possession or offered for sale online, the audit said. The report said the workers may have violated state law in keeping the state-owned equipment for personal use.
Wynne said the audit “was absolutely replete with falsities, misrepresentations and inaccuracies throughout.”
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore didn’t return requests for comment.
Newman oversaw the fish-testing operations based in the Plaquemines Parish community of Venice. The June 2017 audit grew out of a review released by Purpera’s office six months earlier that questioned whether many of the equipment purchases were needed for the fish-testing program and that found insufficient sampling of fish and excessive spending.
In a written response to the earlier audit, Wynne had said there wasn’t a way to track which items may have broken or been lost amid the fish testing.
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