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Audit reveals Lee County DA’s office under Brandon Hughes failed in seven areas to comply with state laws
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Audit reveals Lee County DA’s office under Brandon Hughes failed in seven areas to comply with state laws

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Opening statements for Howard Capital Murder Trial

Lee County District Attorney Brandon Hughes began opening statements for the capital murder trial of Marquavious Tirrell Howard in September of 2019.

An audit completed by the State Department of Examiners of Public Accounts found multiple occurences of noncompliance and impermissible expenditures in the Lee County District Attorney’s Office from September 2018 to November 2020, when now-suspended District Attorney Brandon Hughes led the office.

The audit lays out seven instances of noncompliance with state and local laws from the district attorney’s office, including failures to establish procedures to insure the deposit of money gathered by the office, as well as failures to document credit card expenditures and unallowable purchases made by the district attorney.

The audit was requested by Lee County District Attorney Pro Tem Jessica Ventiere when she was appointed to her position in November 2020 after Hughes was charged with using his office for personal gain, conspiracy to commit theft and first-degree perjury.

“Obviously, the results of this audit have added to an already difficult situation within the District Attorney’s Office,” Ventiere said in a statement. “As District Attorney Pro Tem, I recognize District Attorney monies belong to our citizens, and we strive to spend responsibly and be good stewards of state funds.”

Instances of noncompliance with state and local laws and regulations listed in the audit report are:

The failure of the District Attorney to submit certain information to the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts at the end of each fiscal year.

The failure of the District Attorney to establish procedures to ensure that all money was deposited daily.

The failure of the District Attorney to establish procedures to ensure that all credit card expenditures were adequately documented.

The failure of the District Attorney to establish procedures to ensure that amounts were remitted to the Office of Prosecution Services on a monthly basis as required.

The failure of the District Attorney to establish procedures to ensure that all equipment purchases were added to the inventory listing.

The failure of the District Attorney to establish procedures to ensure that only allowable law enforcement expenses were paid from the District Attorney’s Fund.

The failure of the District Attorney to establish additional accounting procedures for the Worthless Check Unit in accordance with the Minimum Accounting Requirements for the Office of District Attorney, prescribed by the Chief Examiner of Public Accounts.

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“After appointment, I established protocols and internal controls and procedures,” Ventiere said in a statement. “Those protocols included the request for an immediate audit by the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts and an internal audit to find ways to reduce unnecessary spending within the office. … As part of my commitment to upholding the integrity of the office and remaining transparent to the public, a copy of the audit has been provided to our local judges, the Alabama Attorney General, the Alabama Ethics Commission, the Alabama State Bar and the Office of Prosecution Services.”

The audit is available for public viewing at www.examiners.alabama.gov under audit reports.

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