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Mayor Used Position to Avoid Sales Tax


 Sales tax exemptions aren't for everyone.

“I didn’t mean to.” This is what children often say when they did something they ought not to have done. Of course, they often did mean to, and so they get in trouble.

When James Lavigne was mayor of Pearl River, Louisiana, he did a few things he ought not to have done. He bought a fishing boat with the town’s credit card, for example, and also a gas-powered residential generator that ended up at the home of town clerk Diane Bennett Hollie.

These purchases came to light during a 2014 legislative audit, which also revealed Lavigne and Hollie “made personal purchases on the town credit cards to avoid paying sales taxes.”

Lavigne has admitted to using the town’s sales tax exemption number to purchase personal items tax-free. He called it a “lapse in record keeping,” not wrongdoing, but he did plead guilty to 5 of the 7 counts against him. Hollie also pleaded guilty to the charges against her.

For these and other crimes, the former mayor has been sentenced to 5 years’ probation. This could turn into more than 11 years of prison time if the terms of probation are not met.

Most sales tax errors are, in fact, attributable to lapses in record keeping. Automated sales tax software as a service (SaaS) helps keep honest people compliant. Learn how it works.

photo credit: BRITISH COLUMBIA 1971 MUNICIPAL EXEMPT plate via photopin (license)


Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Gail Cole
Avalara Author
Gail Cole
Gail Cole
Avalara Author Gail Cole
Gail began researching and writing about sales tax in 2012 and has been fascinated with it ever since. She has a penchant for uncovering unusual tax facts, and endeavors to make complex sales tax laws more digestible for both experts and laypeople.