Michael Thibodeaux, the long-time clerk of court in Iberia Parish, has been named in a 14-count indictment that accuses him of multiple counts of malfeasance, theft, and filing or maintaining false public records, as well as one count each of racketeering and perjury.
The charges stem from a state investigative audit of the clerk’s office that found, between 2013 and 2016, more than $300,000 in advance court costs were kept in an account rather than being refunded, and that more than $200,000 of that amount was moved into an account for salaries and other expenses in the office.
The funds in question are from court costs paid in advance for ongoing cases. State law requires the clerk must hold those fees for five years before refunding them, but in many cases there was no judgment or other resolution to indicate that the litigation was complete.
“We were talking about 3,000 cases,” Thibodeaux said in a 2016 interview. “Of those, more than 2,200 had less than $70 in them.”
In his response to the audit, Thibodeaux said at the time that were no funds either missing or misspent.
“The report notes explicitly that these funds were not spent nor used for any gains of the Clerk’s office,” Thibodeaux wrote. “It is also worth noting that during the audit period the Clerk’s fund balance remained in excess of $1 million and the amount identified in the report represents less than 1/2 of 1 percent of deposits made by our office during this time period.”
The indictment cites two counts of theft over $25,000, one count of theft between $5,000 and $25,000, two counts of filing or maintaining false public records, and seven counts of malfeasance in office in addition to the single racketeering and perjury counts.