Ocean Springs harbor master faces embezzlement allegations

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - By Patrice Clark – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) – More missing money in Jackson County has sparked another embezzlement probe by the state. Harbor Master Lesley Hamm is under investigation for misappropriation of county money. Supervisors fired her Tuesday.

Just last week, former county employee Ginger Lashley was indicted on embezzlement charges. State and county officials said tracking down missing money is, and will continue to be, a top priority.

Lesley Hamm took on the harbor master job a few months after Hurricane Katrina hit. Supervisor John McKay said she had done a good job, but a short time ago problems began to surface.

"It is not a whole lot I can say about a personnel issue going on in the county, but she broke some policy and some policies that the county had established," McKay said about Hamm.

According to the state auditor's office, Hamm is being accused of stealing county funds. McKay confirmed those embezzlement allegations.

"The county is working very hard to make sure that we put checks and balances in place so these types of things don't continue," McKay said.

The state auditor's office wouldn't say when the investigation started or how much money was supposedly taken by Hamm. The office said that the investigation is ongoing and right now, Hamm has not being charged.

"I would prefer we consider or continue to consider her innocent until she is proven guilty," harbor restaurant owner David Harris said.

Harris has known Hamm for years. He and many fishermen we talked to said they don't want to jump to conclusions too quickly.

"If there is anything wrong with this situation it will not be on her end, it will be on the other, I promise you that," fisherman Edward Ross said.

"For her to be just shutout, I don't know what you would call it but BS," fisherman Chris Balius said.

"If she is indeed proven guilty, my heart goes out to her for having done that. If she is proven innocent, then congratulations Lesley," Harris said about the investigation.

WLOX contacted Hamm, but she chose not to comment on the investigation. Animal Shelter Director Bill Richman will serve as interim harbor master until the county hires a permanent replacement.

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