Audit: Former clerk stole $360,000 from City of Oakdale
Oakdale, LA (KPLC) - An audit in the City of Oakdale accuses a now-deceased city clerk of stealing nearly $360,000 for personal use.
At a June 3 meeting of the Oakdale City Council, CPA Royce Scimemi presented a financial report outlining fraud and the misappropriation of funds among other items.
“The city clerk used ACH transactions to transfer cash to three different personal bank accounts during this fiscal year,” Scimemi told the council during the meeting, which was live-streamed on the city’s social media page.
His report indicates $248,563.58 was taken during the 2019/2020 fiscal year, then another $109,461.98 was misused from July 2020 through March 2021. Scimemi told the city at the meeting that the fiscal periods prior to July 2019 were not analyzed as part of his report and “there’s probably more that we are not aware of.”
“This is a shock. It’s devastating,” Mayor Gene Paul said. “It’s just unbelievable that someone could do that or would do that, especially in a small town.”
The accused employee, Melissa “Lisa” Schaefer, died on March 11 after serving as Oakdale City Clerk for more than 18 years. The report says Schaefer had access to two electronic devices allowing her to initiate and approve transactions.
“This was one of the internal controls I think that was designed to prevent that from happening - that those would be in separate hands,” Scimemi said. “Management’s plan to ensure that doesn’t occur again is the devices will be held by two different people, and the mayor will be reviewing reports detailing ACH transactions and transfers.”
He says it’s believed Schaefer padded payroll and overpaid herself $10,000 to $30,000 a month.
“It was payroll and direct deposit,” Paul explained. “What she was doing was putting more than what payroll is requiring. For instance, if payroll requires $40,000 this pay period, she might be putting $50-, $55-, $60,000. And then at the end of payroll, it has to be a zero balance. She had created fraudulent accounts with new routing numbers and stuff in her name, and she was funneling money into those accounts.”
“She was good with numbers,” Paul said of Lisa Schaefer, “She knew exactly what she was doing.”
The CPA’s report, which found nearly $360,000 was taken, only went back to July 2019. Mayor Paul says it may never be known how long this went on and how much was actually taken. The city has discussed if it should go back and investigate previous fiscal years, but Paul believes it would not be in the city’s best interest, only leading to a larger CPA bill.
While the city notified both the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office and the Allen Parish District Attorney, no formal charges have been filed.
7 News confirmed the Legislative Auditor’s Office is aware of the financial investigation, as is District Attorney Joe Green. While Green says he cannot comment on active matters, he says an entity like the city of Oakdale could possibly recoup the funds through civil litigation.
According to Scimemi’s report, “there has been no restitution received as of yet but fidelity bond insurance claims were filed in the amount of $35,000 and $50,000.”
According to Paul, the city’s attorney is working with the family’s attorney to work out a deal.
“We are hoping we are going to be able to recover some of this money,” Paul said, “I feel like the family is going to do the right thing.”
Copyright 2021 KPLC. All rights reserved.