Audit Reveals Bad Finances - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

Audit Reveals Bad Finances

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BUNKIE, La. -- The Southwest Avoyelles Waterworks District is being looked at very closely. Auditors say there's more than $38,000 of customer's money missing.

Complaints began to pour into the state, after those customers said their bills began to look suspicious.

News Channel Five's Brooke Buford spoke with customers about the allegations.

Wayne and Rosalind Juneau are proud Bunkie residents and business owners. But, they say two years ago, they had something come up in their water bill, that turned them off.

"We knew there were some things going on that just didn't seem normal," said Wayne.

The Juneau's make a living washing cars for other companies. They say they've gotten their bill regularly from the Southwest Avoyelles Waterworks District for years. But then, something started to look odd. They say the bills began to look higher than usual and numbers didn't add up.  And, they said when they started talking to their customers, they found out they weren't alone in their concerns.

"They would come to realize that they were being charged $5-10 dollars more," said Rosalind.

They took their concerns to Superintendent Frank "P.T." Palermo and others on the water board at the time, but they say they were met with criticism.

"They told us they work on the honor system and this wasn't true," said Wayne. "They discredited us."

But two years later, the state is getting a closer look, and they're saying the Juneau's were right.

"My understanding is now, that everything we've been discredited about is actually true," said Wayne. 

A state audit released Monday says that under Palermo's leadership, meter readings were not recorded properly, customer payments weren't deposited and more than $38,000 is now missing.

Palermo wasn't home when we went to talk to him, but his attorney says his client is shocked by the audit.

"He is surprised about some of the allegations," said George Higgins, his attorney. "If you know the entire truth to this entire situation, I think you would agree with me as to why he's not connected."

Higgins says the allegation of the missing money is just that - an allegation with no proof.

"I don't think it's necessarily missing," he said. "But, if you've read the report with a fine toothed comb, really that's speculation on their part. They really don't have any type of evidence that any of this money was gone."

And while the Juneau's are waiting to see what happens next. This new report is enough to let relief about what they say has been happening all along, come flooding in.

"It's a relief!" said Rosalind. "We have tried to prove our point for going on almost two years."

Former Superintendent Palermo and board members were elected by the Avoyelles Parish Police Jury. We contacted them and they said they had no comment on the issue.

The current president of the Southwest Avoyelles Waterworks District did not return our calls.

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