Friday, August 15, 2014

Perry: State Auditor presents misspending report

State Auditor Stacey Pickering released last month the annual "Audit Exceptions Report" detailing violations "of the law or an accounting error [that] has resulted in a misappropriations or an incorrect expenditure of public funds." Pickering's office recovered more than $1.5 million in fiscal year 2014. Incidents occurred in 50 of Mississippi's 82 counties.
Copy of report

"We continue to protect the public's trust through evaluations of accounting practices and aggressive investigations of alleged wrongdoing. We believe the taxpayers of Mississippi deserve no less," Pickering said in the release.

County audits in ten counties (Clarke, George, Kemper, Lincoln, Marshall, Oktibbeha, Scott, Stone, Union, Winston) recovered $139,300 from chancery clerks or circuit clerks who exceeded the fee cap or reported disallowed expenditures.

The report details missing state property, sometimes minor items involving values below five dollars. The Property Division identified 40 exceptions involving employees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning (DSU, JSU, USM, MVSU, MSU, UMMC Foundation), Department of Education and Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks for an average of $590 per incident. When removing one claim of missing equipment from Delta State, that average drops to less than $245 with over half involving matters of less than $50.

All the county audit and state property items were "paid in full and settled to the appropriate entity."

The meat of the report comes from the Investigations Law Enforcement Division of the Auditor's Office which "issued twenty-nine formal demands for $2,899,208.53 and nine informal demands for a total of #22,247.99 and recovered misspent or embezzled funds totaling $1,354,437.15."

This section of the report includes a number of cases which made headlines across the state.

Former Southaven Mayor Greg Davis is appealing the Hinds County Chancery Court order to repay the $73,915 balance of his $181,815 demand as well as his criminal sentence of ten years in prison (2.5 to serve / 7.5 probation) and restitution.

Twelve individuals are named as a result of the investigation into the Department of Marine Resources on charges of misuse of public funds, embezzlement, fraud or conspiracy. The top demands issued were to former executive director Bill Walker ($362,689), former chief of staff Joe Ziegler ($258,268) as well as jointly and severally former City of D'Iberville manager Michael Janus and consultant (and Walker's son) Scott Walker ($180,000). Seven of the individuals named have entered guilty pleas and two are scheduled for trial.

Richard Hall, convicted of one count of mail fraud and one count of money laundering in federal court and three counts of mail fraud in state court relating to the failed Mississippi Beef Processors plant in Yalobusha County paid nearly $50,000 to the state in FY14 and maintains a balance of almost half-a-million dollars. James Draper, also convicted in the beef plant scandal, paid a little over $12,000 to the state this past year and has about that much left yet to pay.

Shelly Ashley-Palmertree, who was removed as circuit clerk by the Warren County Board of Supervisors, faces three demands totaling over a million dollars and is facing trial on two counts of embezzlement.

A number of cases in the report involved demands of more than a quarter-of-a-million dollars to individuals, some of which has been repaid.

Itawamba County Chancery Clerk James Witt faces a $503,246 demand for misappropriation of funds.

Following a conviction for theft of federal funds, engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from unlawful activity and tax evasion, former Jefferson County Circuit Clerk maintains a balance due to the state of $547,033.

Former Jones County Deputy Chancery Clerk Natalie Brooke Ward has paid a third of her $307,000 demand following her guilty plea for embezzlement. Former Meridian principal Judy Radcliff still owes $235,000 following her plea to conspiracy. Former Union County Coroner Mark Golding must pay $363,484 to Union County and $34,933 to the Office of the State Auditor following his fraud conviction.

Former Greenville Public Schools Superintendent Harvey Franklin, and President of Teach Them To Read Edna Goble face together $1,201,247 in restitution for a scheme involving Goble paying bribes and kickbacks to Franklin.

Municipal elected officials are also named in the report including Hazlehurst Alderman Frank Jones ($391) and Alderwoman Shirley Sandifer ($418.54), Belzoni aldermen Johnny Page ($1,867) and Charles Thurman ($4,500) as well as former Mayor Wardell Walton ($2,176), Hickory Mayor Tommy Nichols ($22,286), and former Bassfield Mayor Jerry Holland who is jointly and severally liable for $309,228 in a scheme involving five other city officials who "purchased surplus property and converted it to personal use."

Not all the exceptions were purposeful - some were honest mistakes and those cited repay the amount of their error and the case is closed. This annual account helps keep the honest people mindful of their responsibility to taxpayers, while shining the light of prosecution on those who would purposefully rob the public treasury.

Brian Perry is a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC. Reach him at or @CapstonePerry on Twitter.

This post is a paid advertisement by State Auditor Stacey Pickering. 

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS.

Trollfest '07

Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS