The town of Double Oak is asking the federal government to forgive more than $75,000 of misused COVID-19 relief funding.
Former Double Oak Mayor Von Beougher resigned in July after receiving heavy criticism because he used State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to give $25,000 bonuses to nine town employees. The Town Council requested an audit of the use of the funding, to make sure that it was allowed, and the audit found that not all of the employees were eligible under the SLFRF rules.
Three of the employees who received the bonuses are salaried with annual pay of more than $87,030, and are therefore not eligible to receive the funding, according to the audit by certified public accountants Hankins, East, Deaton, Tonn & Seay. The audit report is published in the Town Council’s Oct. 3 meeting agenda packet.
During that meeting, the council members considered three possible actions. Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Johnson said he wanted to have the three ineligible employees return the money, but council members Scott Whisenhunt, Casey Parsons and Jean Hillyer instead voted to write a letter to the federal government, to explain what happened and ask for forgiveness. A third option, to pay the money from the town’s balance funds back into the SLFRF funds, was tabled, pending the result of the letter to the Treasury. That letter has not yet been sent.
Johnson — who was first elected in May, after the bonuses were given — said he thought the three employees should pay the money back because they never should have received it in the first place.
“The rules clearly stated what you could do with the money, and the previous mayor, council and town secretary did not do a good job on figuring out how that money should have been used,” Johnson said, adding that he believes Beougher “took the fall” and other council members knew he was planning to give out the large bonuses.
Hillyer, who was also first elected in May, said that “after deep reflection,” she voted to seek forgiveness because it’s been several months since those three employees received the bonuses and she considered it water under the bridge.
“As far as anybody can determine, none of the employees did anything wrong. They had no reason to not believe the payment was valid,” Hillyer said, adding that fingers should only be pointed at Beougher. “I’m disturbed that the former mayor would do that without consulting Town Council.”
Note: This news story has been edited to correct the record on how the council voted.