Audit: Former deputy/Springhill fire chief overpaid himself, may have violated law

Louisiana

SPRINGHILL, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton confirmed Monday that his office is investigating a former Webster Parish deputy and Springhill Fire Chief, who according to a recent audit, allegedly illegally overpaid himself to the tune of almost $25,000.

Last week, Louisiana’s Legislative Auditor completed an investigation of former Springhill District Fire Chief Billy Rasberry Jr., after the Webster Parish Sheriff’s Office requested it in March 2019.

The audit determined that Rasberry allegedly overpaid himself $24,430. According to the audit, the money included extra-duty payments of $16,930 without documentation to support the extra hours, and a $7,500 pay increase, “that does not appear to have been authorized by the Board of Commissioners,” nor was there documentation from the Fire District that authorized the pay raise.

The audit also finds that Rasberry allegedly used more than $1,700 to buy auto parts and services for his personal vehicle and didn’t pay sales tax on his personal purchases.

In addition, the audit determined that Rasberry may have violated state law by serving full-time as fire Chief in Springhill from September 2012 until March 2019, as well as a full-time Webster Parish sheriff deputy from July 2017 to March 2018.

Rasberry, however, denies the allegations. Minden defense attorney Eric Johnson outlined Rasberry’s defense in a Jan. 31, 2020 letter to the Legislative Auditor.  

Although the letter states Rasberry did not know as a salaried employee of the fire district he was not allowed to collect overtime, he said he actually worked the overtime hours he put in for.

Johnson’s letter further stated that Rasberry claims the Fire District Board approved bills and payroll at every meeting and that the Board authorized his $7,500 pay raise.

Regarding the auto parts and service for personal use, Johnson wrote that the district employee who picked up the auto parts told the store Rasberry was going to pay for them out of personal funds, but they billed the fire district. Johnson said Rasberry would be “more than happy” to reimburse the district for the parts.

Finally, Johnson wrote that Rasberry believed he was eligible to be both fire chief and deputy sheriff because he claims Sexton was “well aware” of his fire chief position when he swore Rasberry into office.

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