COVINGTON—Former Pearl River Mayor James E. Lavigne, 75, pled guilty Monday to malfeasance in office, theft over $500, and two misdemeanors, stemming from a state legislative audit that showed he used his office to benefit personally. District Judge Raymond Childress sentenced Lavigne to five years probation but reserved the right to sentence him to up to 11½ years in prison if the probation terms are not met.
The audit found that between Feb. 17, 2012, and August 27, 2012, Lavigne used the town’s credit card to purchase a 10-foot fishing boat, which he used personally. Lavigne also spent $3,679 on the same credit card to buy a gas-powered residential generator, ostensibly for use at a sewage lift station. But the generator was not compatible for that use and was delivered to his home. Lavigne learned the generator also was incompatible there, and in July 2013 it was moved to the home of town clerk Diane Bennett Hollie. Hollie had not paid for it by the time of the November 2013 audit.
The audit also found that both Lavigne and Hollie made personal purchases on their town credit cards to avoid paying sales taxes. In addition to the two felonies, Lavigne was charged with two counts of unauthorized use of a moveable and misdemeanor theft.
Hollie, 54, pled guilty last month to similar charges. Assistant District Attorney Darrell Sims prosecuted both cases.