Auditor Probe

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 3, 2009

Supervisors ask state auditor to probe suspicions of theft

By Billy Davis

Panola County supervisors confirmed this week they have launched an inquiry into allegations that county materials were sold for scrap and that county employees may have pocketed the proceeds. 

Supervisors said they have since contacted the state Auditor as part of the inquiry.

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Supervisor Kelly Morris, when contacted Tuesday by The Panolian, acknowledged he possessed four receipts from Sardis business Martin Bros. Scrap Metal.

The receipts and their descriptions kicked off the inquiry, he said.

In Mississippi, the receipt for a scrap metal sale identifies the material, the amount of the sale, and the name of the seller. 

Morris alleged one receipt shows a county employee was paid for culverts. A second and third receipt may lead to the improper sale of I-beams from a dismantled bridge.

A fourth receipt shows that a county employee allegedly sold scrap metal while still on the clock.

The four receipts are dated from June, Morris said. A search has not been initiated for names and materials prior to that month, he said.

Board president Gary Thompson, who was informed by Morris about the receipts, said he supported an investigation into the matter.

“If this is all true, that money needed to go to the general fund,” said Thompson.

Supervisors Bubba Waldrup and James Birge, when contacted by a reporter, also said they supported an investigation by the state.

“We need to get to the bottom of it,” Birge said.

“This kind of thing has been abused long enough,” Waldrup said. “It’s time to put our foot down.”

Supervisor Vernice Avant, when polled for her opinion, said she wished the county board had waited to hear a report from road manager Lygunnah Bean. He had launched his own investigation, she said.

Waldrup said he was in favor of an auditor’s investigation and also wants supervisors to meet “one on one” with Bean to discuss the matter.

County Administrator Kelley Magee told The Panolian she was asked by supervisors to contact the state auditor’s office and has since done so.

Magee worked in that state office before she was employed as comptroller/inventory control clerk for Lafayette County government.

Panola Sheriff Hugh “Shot” Bright said Thursday his department did not plan to investigate the matter unless asked by the state for assistance.