State Inquiry

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 10, 2009

Amid state inquiry, road manager proposes changes

By Billy Davis

Panola County road manager Lygunnah Bean indirectly addressed allegations of theft in his department by proposing a more vigorous accounting of salvaged bridge materials.

The report, presented Monday in Sardis to county supervisors, came in response to an ongoing investigation that county materials found their way to Sardis scrap metal company Martin Bros.

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The state auditing department is looking into the matter after Supervisor Kelly Morris said last week that receipts from the Sardis business show culverts and I-beams were sold.

Morris and other supervisors asked County Administrator Kelley Magee to ask the Auditor to investigate the allegations. Magee once worked for the state agency.

Bean did not admit nor deny that materials were stolen or sold, but told supervisors that determining if materials are owned by the county, or are owned a contractor, could clear up any misunderstandings.

Under proposed rules, salvaged materials would be inspected to determine ownership, then the materials will be bidded out if they are county property, according to a one-page plan Bean handed to supervisors. 

County-owned materials will be sold as scrap and proceeds returned to the county, Bean wrote.

If salvaged materials are owned by a contractor, no materials can be sold or given away using county equipment or personnel, he also wrote.

Supervisors did not interject with questions or comments, and Bean continued with his report.

But the delicate matter had already been broached minutes earlier, when board president Gary Thompson recognized a visitor to the board meeting.

“This is sure enough stealing. It’s black and white,” Monroe Short, who has helped spread word of the alleged thievery, told the county board.

When Short demanded to know why no one had been fired, Thompson replied that “no determination has been made yet.”

“It’s not just done on the cuff,” the board president added.

Reached after the meeting, Morris said he could not talk about the matter because of the state investigation.