Exception Report

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 10, 2012

Auditor makes ‘Exception’ for public officials

By Billy Davis

It’s not the sort of list where you want to find your name.

David Chandler, the former county administrator, is listed in a Mississippi State Auditor’s report that shows monies demanded from mayors, court clerks, county supervisors and other public officials during the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

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The annual report is known as an “Exception Report” and its release is mandatory under state law according to a press release from State Auditor Stacey Pickering. The fiscal year ends June 30 in state government.

Under the “Exceptions” for Mississippi counties, the state agency reported that Chandler misused $292,772 in public funds.

Chandler has returned a total of $223,615 to date to Panola County government, the state’s retirement system known as PERS, and to the State Auditor’s Office.

The Panolian has reported that Pickering’s office alleged Chandler falsified overtime pay as administrator, and he broke state law when he immediately returned to work as a contracted hire after retiring.

Chandler cooperated with the FBI in a kickback and bribery investigation, and is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty last December to mail fraud and embezzlement.

Chandler is the only Panola County official listed on the Exception Report. Five neighboring counties that touch Panola did not show up on the county audit report.

Mississippi has 82 counties of which 42 escaped public embarrassment for public officials walking away with taxpayers’ money.

Most counties like Panola were cited on only one page of the report while two counties — Leflore and Washington — were cited more than once. Public officials from Hinds County were cited on six pages in the report for money laundering, embezzlement and other offenses.

In the county audit, the largest payback to public funds occurred in Harrison County, located on the Gulf Coast, where the former director of the South Mississippi Regional Center made salary overpayments totaling $423,801.

Pickering announced July 2 that retired center director Dr. Pam Baker was required to pay $248,823 in principle, $162,122 in interest and $12,855 in investigative costs.

The State Auditor’s Office determined Baker used call-back pay to increase individual’s salaries without requiring overtime work to be performed. The Department of Mental Health informed the Auditor’s Office about the pay, which kicked off an investigation.  

After Baker’s required repayment, Chandler’s required repayment was the second highest among 49 individuals listed in the audit.

The total amount of funds recovered by the State Auditor for 2012 was $1,129,493 according to Pickering.

In addition to the County Division, the report lists audit investigations performed by other divisions — Investigative, Performance, Education and Property.