BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) — The 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office may have violated state law by transferring funds to a nonprofit organization, according to a report from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office (LLAO).
To download and see the findings from the audit, click below:
The LLAO said it initiated the audit after a series of newspaper articles questioned District Attorney John DeRosier’s practice of allowing pre-trial diversion participants and defendants on misdemeanor probation to buy out their required community service hours by donating funds to a foundation set up by the DA’s office. By transferring funds received by his office to a nonprofit corporation, DeRosier may have violated the Louisiana Constitution and state law, according to the LLAO.
Records show the DA’s office transferred $556,598 to the District Attorney’s Community Assistance Foundation between October 2015 and November 2019.
During the roughly four-year period, the LLAO said the DA allowed pretrial diversion participants and defendants on court-ordered misdemeanor probation to buy out community service hours by purchasing gift cards or money orders and delivering them to the district attorney’s office. The district attorney then transferred the gift cards and money orders to the Foundation. The Foundation used the funds for annual toy drives, to make donations to other charitable organizations chosen by DeRosier, and to provide assistance to persons affected by natural disasters.
By allowing the buyouts, DeRosier may also have violated state law as only the court, not the DA, may modify, change, or discharge the conditions of probation. DeRosier also failed to disclose his position as a Foundation officer and board member on his 2015, 2016, and 2017 annual financial disclosure statements. State ethics laws require certain elected officials to file annual financial statements and disclose their association with any nonprofit organization for which they are a director or officer.
In addition to the buyout issues, the audit also found that DA’s office employees illegally performed Foundation and campaign work during office hours.
DeRosier was also found to have spent Foundation money, which would be considered public funds, for personal benefit. On October 5, 2016, the Foundation issued two checks, totaling $2,815, to The Hobo Hotel, Inc. to pay for items Mr. DeRosier won at auction during a Hobo Hotel fundraiser, including a security camera system that was installed at Mr. DeRosier’s home.