The former head of the state’s superintendent of nursing homes allegedly collected more than $18,000 in personal expenses on agency-issued credit cards, purchasing items such as phones, smartwatches, speakers, kitchen equipment, and streaming TV subscriptions.
The Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office released a report Monday detailing Mark Hebert’s credit card spending when he was executive director of the Louisiana Board of Nursing Facility Administrators Examiners. The audit covered credit card use from June 2019 to July 2022. The council is the small state agency that oversees the licensing and training of nursing home professionals.
Hebert charged a total of $98,080 to cards issued by his office over the two-year period, and $18,979 appears to have been a personal charge, according to the report.
“By using public funds for private purchases, Mr Hebert may have violated state law,” the audit report said.
The report notes possible violations including theft, unauthorized use of movable property, and abuse of office, among others. However, Hebert’s attorney, John McLendon, said his client had not been charged with any crime and maintained that any purchases had been authorized.
“I don’t think this is criminal,” McLendon said in a telephone interview Monday. “He worked there for 17 years with a perfect record.”
Personal items include electronics, such as four Samsung Galaxy phones, two Galaxy tablets, smartwatches, earbuds and related accessories. Hebert also purchased a safe, two air fryers, a portable car starter, a robot vacuum cleaner and a speaker set. The card is also used to purchase gas-powered generators, portable power generators and related accessories including cables, canopies and fuel cans.
The receipt indicated most of the items were sent directly to the Hebert residence. The audit claims there is no documentation saying the purchase was authorized or used for business purposes. The report also said generator equipment was kept at Hebert’s residence.
McLendon said goods were delivered to Hebert’s residence because he was working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Records show Hebert was charging more than $2,400 for subscriptions to newspaper, satellite radio, and streaming services from Weather Channel, KlowdTV, Philo, and Fox Nation Patriot News, according to the report.
He also used a credit card to pay for his home’s internet service, which totaled more than $3,400. Hebert said the now deceased former chairman of the board had agreed to pay for his home internet service because Hebert had to work from home during the coronavirus pandemic. The audit noted Hebert continued to use the agency’s card for his home internet more than a year after he returned to the office full-time in January 2021.
Hebert reportedly told the auditors that he purchased generator equipment to run various parts of the office during the disaster, and that he never used the generator personally. According to the audit report, Hebert’s assistant said he was not aware of any generators being used in the office and the office was closed during the statewide emergency.
After the auditor took an inventory of the items, Hebert rented a storage unit on behalf of the board and moved the items from his house to the unit.
Hebert returned a total of about $7,600 worth of goods and resigned from his position in August 2022, months after an independent accountant first uncovered the allegations in question, the audit report said.
McLendon said his client believed the disgruntled former employee brought allegations leading to an audit.
The audit board, which employs only two full-time staff, adopted new internal controls in response to the audit. The office has implemented a new purchase order system that requires approval from the chairman of the board any time the executive director wants to spend more than $500. The chairman of the board must also seek approval from the finance committee for purchases over $1,000.
The board will also conduct a monthly review of credit card statements and compare charges against itemized receipts. Any fee without proper documentation will not be approved, and “the person making the fee will be required to reimburse the board for those specific fees,” according to the agency’s written response.
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