Former Meridian parks and recreation director Kelvin McGruder charged with embezzlement

McGruder

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated the charge against Kelvin McGruder Sr.

Kelvin McGruder Sr., the former director of Meridian's parks and recreation department, has been charged with making fraudulent statements to the government, the state auditor's office said. 

McGruder surrendered to agents from the auditor's office at the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department Wednesday and was released on a $5,000 bond, according to Logan Reeves, a media relations representative with the auditor's office. 

Wednesday evening, Reeves clarified that McGruder was charged with making fraudulent statements to the government that resulted in him receiving money. Earlier Wednesday, Reeves told The Meridian Star McGruder was charged with embezzlement, citing code 97-7-10.

A grand jury indictment filed Nov. 14 in Lauderdale County Circuit Court states: "Kelvin Bernard McGruder, Sr. in Lauderdale County, Mississippi, between the dates of December 1, 2016 through April 30, 2018, did, with intent to defraud the City of Meridian, knowingly and willingly, make false, fraudulent statements or representations, knowing the same to be false and fraudulent, in that he did prepare fraudulent time sheets on behalf of Kelvin Bernard McGruder, Jr., to the City of Meridian and based upon said false and fraudulent statements or representations, Kelvin Bernard McGruder, Sr. did receive monetary compensation in the sum of Three Hundred Twenty Nine Dollars and Forty Three Cents ($329.43), in violation of Section 97-7-10 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, Annotated and contrary to the form of the statue in such cases made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the State of Mississippi.

McGruder waived a formal reading of the indictment and entered a plea of not guilty on Wednesday in the 10th Circuit Court, according to court documents. A pretrial conference is scheduled Jan. 9. A trial is scheduled Feb. 11.

Mayor Percy Bland said he was aware the state auditor had been investigating the parks and recreation department, but had no other comment. 

Reeves could not confirm whether the arrest was related to McGruder's time as parks and recreation director. 

McGruder was terminated in July 2018 for being in contact with a city council member during his suspension.

Bland previously said that when McGruder was placed on administrative leave, he was told not to contact other city employees in light of a state audit into the parks and recreation department.

In September 2018, McGruder filed a complaint in the U.S. Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, accusing the city of retaliation and discrimination. 

According to the complaint, McGruder said the city retaliated against him after he reported that other employees had violated city policies or abused flex/ comp time.

The city cited numerous reasons for firing McGruder in response. 

"The City had good faith to suspend and ultimately terminate McGruder," the city's response said. "On April 9, 2018, employees of a local non-profit met in person with Mayor Percy Bland... and reported they had information that McGruder was misappropriating City funds through his position of Director of Parks and Recreation."

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