MOSS POINT, MS (WLOX) - There's a call for another investigation into how public money is spent in Moss Point. This time, it's from the mayor. Doug Walker has been looking into allegations of misspending and the numbers are staggering. Almost $3.5 million is missing from the utility department's coffers, and thousands from a police benefit fund.
With state investigations already underway, Mayor Billy Broomfield says he is intent on getting to the bottom of this troubling situation. A city-led forensic audit could be the answer.
"A forensic audit is more detailed than a general audit. It tells you things that you have to look for otherwise and it has a paper trail report that the district attorney can use when it becomes necessary for him to prosecute," Broomfield explained.
He added the police benefit fund is one target, but it hasn't been easy getting answers.
"I tried to work with the bank to get information concerning that account and I was told that I could not because it was a private account."
But then something happened that raised eyebrows at city hall, according to the mayor.
"Our HR department got a hold of a report that showed withdrawals from that account and we started looking at those withdrawals."
WLOX News Now obtained several documents showing some of those withdrawals. Page after page of spending that had nothing to do with the purpose of the fund: the police department hosting events such as Night Out Against Crime and Trunk or Treat. More than $7000 was spent in two years on things like manicures, restaurant meals, liquor from package stores, even a two-month subscription to online streaming service Hulu Plus.
According to the mayor, only two people had control of the account: former police chief Art McClung and the former court clerk supervisor.
But the problems don't stop there. More than $3.4 million is unaccounted for at the city's utility department.
"Hypothetically, you would come in and you would pay your bill, you would be given a receipt, and then when I looked at a report there would be a void. And I started to see too many of those which means that something was wrong," Broomfield recalled.
So what was that something? The mayor believes employees were pocketing some of the money for themselves.
"We know at least two of them were and they turned in their resignations when we discovered what was happening. We don't know how many others may be involved. That's why I want a forensic audit to determine just how far back we need to go."
The mystery is a concern for people who call Moss Point home.
"Oh, missing money, definitely. That's just not right," Naomi McCoy said. "That's not ethical to be absconding with funds from the general public."
Mayor Broomfield says cleaning their own house will restore trust.
"I think they appreciate the fact that we've identified of what has happened to the funds that were requested by them and we're taking appropriate course of actions to make certain that that doesn't happen in the future," Broomfield exclaimed.
The entire situation has left the mayor with a bitter taste in his mouth.
"I'm not mad. I'm just disappointed and upset that some betrayed the trust that the citizens put in them by allegedly taking something that doesn't belong to them."
As of now, there's no indication how long the state auditor's investigation will take for both the benefit fund and the utility department. In addition, after the investigation is concluded, the police benefit find will be closed down permanently.