Sterlington's 2016 audit shows violation of Louisiana law

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STERLINGTON, La. (KNOE) - Sterlington Mayor Vern Breland taking the blame Thursday.

Courtesy: KNOE 8 News

"At the end of the day I will say this - the buck stops with me," Breland said. "I'm the mayor, so if there's any fault or any blame that needs to be placed, it's on me."

This, after an audit shows the town's spending violated state law last year. Breland says a rough 2016 forced his hand.

"Did we violate state law...probably," Breland said. "But, you know, what choice do you have?"

He said after the death of Sgt. David Elahi, the town lost nearly half the police force. That, combined with legal fees needed to fight Greater Ouachita Water Company for their own water system, are what Breland said set the town back.

"Basically, it was almost a $150,000 cut," he said. "If you have a $1 million dollar budget, and you lose $150,000, it's about ten percent of your budget."

Breland said it's forced him to find cash in other places, like from bond money meant for water and sewage infrastructure only. He said the town used some of that money for salaries and training of the town's water superintendent and his assistant. He says they also used more than $60,000 to buy two new police cars.

"The $68,000 we spent on police vehicles, you have to have it," Breland said.

Altogether, the audit shows the town spent more than $300,000 of the $1.7 million bond dollars. It's money they say they have started to pay back.

"You know, we just sold the land by the park for $107,000," he said. "And it helps us. That's the big deal, making sure the money goes to where it needs to go."

So, did he make a mistake? Yes. But, that's why he says he's working to make it right.