No criminal charges for former Mount Carmel Mayor's 'unwise' spending

Former Mount Carmel Mayor Larry Frost

MOUNT CARMEL - Third Judicial district Attorney General Dan Armstrong said Thursday that while some of former Mount Carmel Mayor Larry Frost's purchases from the previous two fiscal years were "unwise" and “unauthorized", they do not rise to the level of criminality.

Frost had been the subject of a state comptroller's investigation related to various purchases from the 2014-15 and 2015-16 fiscal years which either weren't authorized by the full Board of Mayor and Aldermen, and/or should have been advertised for bids.

The most expensive purchases related to paving contracts which exceeded the bid amounts approved by the BMA by several thousand dollars. The "change orders" were authorized by Frost without being re-advertised for bid.

The lone negative finding on Mount Carmel's recently released 2015-16 fiscal year audit involved Frost authorizing paving in excess of the approved bid amount by $16,927.

There were also six negative findings cited in Mount Carmel’s 2014-15 fiscal year audit, which was released this past December, nearly a year late, due to the comptroller's investigation.

The biggest finding from the 2014-15 fiscal year audit was Frost adding $35,000 to the cost of annual paving above the previously approved bid by including Montgomery, Winegar and McGee streets to the project without advertising for additional bids.

Upon completing its investigation the comptroller's office turned over its finding to Armstrong.

"While there certainly were questionable purchases, I don't see anything that is to the level of criminal activity, so at this point I don't anticipate that there wold be any charges filed," Armstrong told the Times-News Thursday. "Certainly unwise, and I guess you could characterize some of it as being unauthorized, but none of it that was unauthorized could be tied to personal benefit."

Armstrong added, "In order to prove official misconduct you have to prove that somebody exceeded their authority, and did it for their own benefit."

On March 11 certified public accountant Mickey Ellis presented Mount Carmel with its 2015-16 fiscal year audit.

The lone negative finding states that while the BMA approved a paving bid amount of $168,502, the final cost of the project totaled $185,429.

"All in all it was a good, solid financial year," Ellis told the BMA on March 11. "There is one finding in this audit report, but it relates to the former administration. It had to do with purchasing policy. The town let bids for a contract, the bids were received, the work began, but soon after the work began the change orders started rolling in."

Ellis added, "The change orders were of the size that they needed to be bid as well, and they weren't. This didn't have anything to do with your (Mayor Chris Jones') tenure. This was back before your time. We had to call it out because it's in the scope of our audit period, but I will say that I don't expect to see anything like that in the upcoming audit year."                                                                                                    

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