Lena couple arrested for malfeasance in office after Fire District 1 audit

Joe Prothro and Charlotte Prothro (NPSO)

NATCHITOCHES, La. (NPSO) - A Lena couple was arrested after an audit showed malfeasance in office at a Natchitoches fire district.

Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Detectives arrested a Natchitoches Parish Volunteer Fire Department Chief and a Board Member in connection with improprieties found at Natchitoches Parish Fire Protection District #1, during a Louisiana Legislative Audit.

The couple turned themselves in to the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office on Thursday after learning arrest warrants had been obtained by the NPSO Criminal Investigations Division and signed by a Tenth Judicial District Court Judge.

The charges stem from findings in a 2018 Louisiana Legislative Audit of Natchitoches Parish Fire District 1, which encompasses the communities of Point Place, Melrose, Gorum, Cloutierville, Chopin, Marco and Janie in south Natchitoches Parish.

Joe C. Prothro, 63, of Lena, was booked into the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center charged with two counts of malfeasance in office.

Charlotte W. Prothro, 56, of Lena was booked into the Natchitoches Parish Detention Center charged with one count of malfeasance in office.

The criminal charges result from two separate incidents that occurred in 2015 and 2016 involving payments made to family members by Fire District #1 while Joseph Prothro was the Board Chairman and Charlotte Prothro was the Fire Chief of Fire Protection District #1.

Two other Fire District #1 Board Members in 2012 evaded arrest due to the statute of limitations on Malfeasance in Office is 4 years, therefore they could not be prosecuted for their involvement in purchasing vehicles from the District 1 Fire Department.

After the findings, Detectives assigned to the NPSO Criminal Investigations reviewed several documents in connection with the investigation, which included consulting with Natchitoches Parish District Attorney Billy Joe Harrington.

Both parties have been released on bond pending their court appearances.

Presently, Fire District #1 has a new Fire Chief with new board members. They are putting policies in place, one of which mandates that all of Fire District #1 members take the State of Louisiana Ethics training as well as other policy and procedures to safeguard the taxpayer’s monies and trust in local government.

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