Demanding more from those who misspend taxpayer dollars

Last month, my office released the Audit Exceptions Report for Fiscal Year 2021, a year-end review that gives the public a chance to look at what the investigators, auditors, attorneys, and staffers in my office have done for the state.

The big takeaway?

This past year, our investigators issued demands nearly four times the dollar amount of the demands we issued in the year prior.

The Exceptions Report is published annually. It not only records information on new cases for each fiscal year, but it also keeps a record of where we stand with older cases.

Each year, we receive numerous tips from people who live and work in communities where they witness wrongdoing. We investigate those actions, and if laws were broken, we work with our partners to bring those lawbreakers to justice.

If you see evidence of public dollars being stolen or misspent, please report this to my office at 1-800-321-1275. We are required to keep your identity confidential. Help from whistleblowers is the only way we are able to do all the work that you read about in the Exceptions Report.

This year, the report describes some people who wronged their communities who have been brought to justice. One example is former Bay Springs City Clerk Randy James. We investigated him and in 2019 issued a demand to him for over $325,000 which included the funds he diverted from the city to pay international scammers. In March, he was prosecuted in federal court and will have to continue to repay the city and other governing agencies the money he still owes.

In another of our large embezzlement cases prosecuted this year, the former City of Columbus Chief Financial Officer Milton Rawle, Jr., was convicted in February for embezzlement. From the over $354,000 demand issued to him, nearly $250,000 has been recovered.

He is responsible for repaying the balance of what is still owed to Columbus. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

And in one of the largest cases we have seen in recent years, we arrested Mardis Jones in February for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from the poor. His non-profit was supposed to be running a program that would repair low-income homes in Tunica.

Jones was paid a hefty salary for his efforts, but evidently that was not enough for him since he also allegedly embezzled over $765,000 from the program. All in all, records show that about 80% of the program’s spending went into Jones’ pocket. In February, we issued a formal demand of over $1 million to him to be returned to the county. Currently, his trial is pending.

It is tough to see Mississippians suffer at the hands of their own friends and neighbors. But I am committed to putting a stop to this sort of corruption and sending a message that if you steal from the taxpayers, we will find out. We will hold perpetrators accountable. We put people in a position of trust and if they violate that trust, they need to be brought to justice. As your State Auditor, I will continue to do my part to hold people accountable when they misuse our hard-earned money.

Shad White is the 42nd State Auditor of Mississippi. 

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