Thursday, March 7, 2019

State Auditor Demands Board Repay $523,388

State Auditor Shad White issued the following statement Monday: 

Today at a press conference State Auditor Shad White announced he has issued demand letters to each current member of the Town Creek Master Water Management District Board of Commissioners for approving unlawful per diem payments to themselves. The total of all demands is $523,388.76 and includes interest and cost of recovery. The names of the commissioners including one deceased individual and the corresponding demand amounts are:

James Robinson - $85,877.68
Jim Bucy - $88,100.56
Jim Long - $11,797.71
The late John Morgan - $103,122.60
Kenneth Oswalt - $95,748.05
Luther Oswalt - $23,565.43
Michael Pannell - $90,853.43
Teressa Winters - $24,323.30



The Town Creek Master Water Management District was created by court order in 1961 to provide flood management and improve water drainage in Lee, Pontotoc, Prentiss, and Union Counties. Water management districts were once popular in the United States, but Town Creek District is now one of four master water management districts remaining in the nation and the only one in Mississippi.

The Town Creek Board collects revenue by assessing a tax on property located within the special district. The tax is collected as part of property owners’ property taxes paid to their county tax collector. Nearly 4,700 parcels of land—which includes homes and commercial property like Barnes Crossing Mall—are located in the district. Over 4,400 of those parcels are in Lee County.

Using their taxing authority, the Board paid for retention ponds and drainage ditches over the past half-century. In addition, the Board accumulated a bank account balance of approximately $1.3 million.

As that balance increased, the Board increased their own pay from the district’s bank accounts. The Board has legal authority to receive maximum per diem payments of $12.50 for time spent conducting the district’s business. They are also reimbursed for actual expenses incurred for their work. Seventeen years ago, the Board began steadily increasing the per diem payments over the legal limit. By 2014, Board members were paying themselves $600 per meeting.

Auditor White said, “This is an example of a small, tucked-away board that very few people know about, using its power to overpay itself. This is the danger of hidden boards and small government offices. A lack of transparency opens the door to big losses for taxpayers.”

The illegal overpayments caused a loss of over $350,000 to local landowners. Board members will be personally responsible for paying back these losses plus interest and investigative costs.

“I am committed to recovering this money for property owners in Lee, Pontotoc, Prentiss, and Union Counties,” said White. “They took a loss—and many of them may not have even known they were paying a tax to this Board—and deserve to be made whole.”

Each Board member is covered by a surety bond. A bond is a type of insurance policy for taxpayers which helps ensure misspent public funds are recovered.

Public corruption can be reported to the Office of the State Auditor online any time by clicking the red “Report Fraud” button at www.osa.ms.gov or via telephone during normal business hours at 1-(800)-321-1275.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

The recovery here will be limited to the bond amount-

Anonymous said...

State Auditor Shad White you done a good job. What other small, tucked-away board that very few people know about, using its power to overpay itself are in this state? Bubba Philly Bryant loves this type of government. Roll on Mississippi. Maybe, one day you will advance to 49th in the nation.

Anonymous said...

I can smell hubris on
James Robinson - $85,877.68
Jim Bucy - $88,100.56
Jim Long - $11,797.71
The late John Morgan - $103,122.60
Kenneth Oswalt - $95,748.05
Luther Oswalt - $23,565.43
Michael Pannell - $90,853.43
Teressa Winters - $24,323.30


And, the state auditor needs to go after John Morgan estate. Is that legal? asking for a lawyer friend.

Anonymous said...

Has the money demanded from the CMU (Canton Municipal Utilities) board members been repaid yet? Who has and who hasn't repaid their ill gotten gains?

Anonymous said...

Auditor will go after bond which covered Mr. Morgan.

Anonymous said...

How much more of this is going on that no one has discovered? Probably a lot.

Anonymous said...

@9:27

Read the story and try to understand. "The Town Creek Master Water Management District was created by court order in 1961..." Read "court order" and "1961" and then tell me what the hell do you think Gov. Bryant has to do with this?

Anonymous said...

What about CANTON MUNICIPAL UTILITIES? Shad they are robbing us blind. Are you going to do ANYTHING???

Anonymous said...

Why on earth isn't anyone headed to jail when he uncovers these felonious thefts? What statute do you need? Jees. Arrest someone or people will just keep doing it.

Anonymous said...

@4:28pm Agreed.. however our political leaders have conveniently set up a pass the buck system. Auditor investigate but can’t indict. AG has to indict and General Hood ain’t about to start indicting votes he needs. So...

Anonymous said...

All these crooks and the many more that are still waking around are voters of AG Hood and he will not touch them.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see the board minutes and see how they came about raising their pay and the justification for it.

Wiseowl said...

Has per diem been same since 1961? Sounds like they needed a little increase.

Anonymous said...

Where are the checks and balances by the Auditor and the Dept. of Finance and Administration to prevent such actions? When was this board last audited? Why didn’t DFA question the payments to the board members before the checks were issued?

Anonymous said...

@4:42 What the U.S. Attorneys? Hurst and Lamar? Can't they go after them on federal charges or something....sheesh. No wonder MS is the most corrupt state at the bottom of the pile. Hospitality state my ass. The only generosity extended is from taxpayers to crooks and thieves.

Anonymous said...

why the large disparities in amounts?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the statue of the board member surety bond needs to be increased to at least $100k or better. Between this and the board in Pelahatchie, I don't think their $25-50k bonds will help much.

Anonymous said...

7:01 - Maybe they didn't all take the same number of cookies from the jar?

Anonymous said...

@ March 7, 2019 at 9:32 PM

You mention the State of MS Department of Finance but the checks might not have been cut by them, as this board might not fall under their purview (I would guess it probably doesn't). DFA does payroll\checks for people who are actually employed by the State of MS and I doubt these board members were considered state employees.

Anonymous said...

Board Members are not state employees. Nor does DFA 'check into' the legitimacy of agency payrolls.

These people didn't meet any statutory guidelines for receipt of per diem in the first place. Not State, Not Federal (IRS), Not County.

Anonymous said...

@ 9:32 pm...

This board is not a state agency therefore DFA does not issue its checks. And, the article points out that the raises were paid from the district bank accounts.

Nice try though.

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