Former Gibsland Mayor Odell Key has been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to malfeasance in office. He will serve one year in prison, and two years probation. Key was also fined $5,000 and ordered to pay court costs.
When Key walked out the court, he told NBC 6, "I love you" and then, "Please leave me alone."
His lawyer Val Salomon said, "the outcome couldve been worse, the outcome couldve been better." Salomon said they were hoping for all probation and no hard labor. He plans to file a motion Monday to have Second Judicial District Court Judge Glenn Fallin to reconsider his decision.
Key, 73, pleaded guilty in February to one felony count of malfeasance in office after a May 2013 state legislative audit revealed that Gibsland financial record were missing and that the town owed $80,000 to the Internal Revenue Service.
"His malfeasance in office comes from not taking certain steps to disallow the finances of city to get into abysmal shape and so that malfeasance stems from fact of not seeking help to balance accounts or handle accounts properly," Val Salomon, Key's attorney.
Criminal Division Director Kurt Wall, who prosecuted the case for the Louisiana Department of Justice, said, “Eliminating public corruption has been a top priority of the attorney general’s office. Elected officials must be held to the highest level of accountability.”
Key has to report to the Bienville Parish Jail Monday. The judge gave him until Monday to gather up all of his diabetes medication.
Key was required to resign from office upon entering his guilty plea in Feb. 2014. While a criminal investigation was ongoing, the Attorney General’s Office assisted in the appointment of David Greer as fiscal administrator, who's been working since November toward getting the town’s finances in order.
"We're making progress but we still have a long way to go," said Greer. "This town didn't pay its witholdings to the IRS or the state of Lousiana, it didn't pay its liability insurance, it didn't pay its workers compensation insurance, and it didn't pay vendors who serviced the town," said Greer.
Greer estimates it will take two years before the town is back on track. When he took over, it was $380,000 in debt. He's got that number down to $160,000.
Current Gibsland Mayor Marketris Jones initially was one of the people who initially reported the mishandling of the town's finances to the Bienville Sheriff's Office.
“We are greatly appreciative for the efforts of Sheriff John Balance and the Bienville Parish Sheriff’s Office. They did an excellent job of investigating this case so that justice could be served for the residents of Giblsand,” said Wall. He added, “Hopefully this conviction will give Gibsland the fresh start it needs to move forward.”
Mayor Marketris Jones added: "This has been a long and stressful process for everyone. We took our concerns and complaints to the Sheriff, and laid it out. It was up to the to determine what was fact and fiction. We see today that our complaints were factual and this is the end result. We are moving forward strong."