Bay St. Louis to be assessed $320,000 penalty by Justice Department

Bay St. Louis to be assessed $320,000 penalty by Justice Department

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - One meeting and two very different accounts of whether Bay St. Louis will be penalized for how it spent $320,000 in drug forfeiture money.

Councilman Lonnie Falgout says the Department of Justice wants that money back, but Mayor Les Fillingame says DOJ officials have not made a decision yet.

"There has been no - with a capital N - no definitive guidance yet that any of the funds we've received over the years will be allowed to be spent locally or if they will ask us to send them back," said Fillingame after learning Falgout told WLOX News Now the city will have to repay the money.

Fillingame and Falgout were two of the city leaders at a Thursday meeting in Jackson with Justice Department investigators. Falgout says there were no ifs, ands or buts that came out of that two hour session; a report to be issued next week will require Bay St. Louis to repay $320,000.  The mayor maintains even if DOJ wants the money back none of it is a penalty.

The mayor remains optimistic that the city won't have to repay the funds, in fact, he said the majority of Thursday's meeting centered on how the city can make sure it follows the rules of the drug assets forfeiture program in the future.

"The biggest news to us was that the city was going to be allowed to be in the program which is what we wanted," Fillingame said. "We have some needs in our police department and that money can help."

The Bay St. Louis City Council will hold a workshop Dec.15 to discuss the police department, including a proposal for Hancock County to take over the day-to-day operations of the city's police department. Right after former chief Mike DeNardo died, the city passed an emergency order asking the Hancock County Sheriff Department to run the police force. That order lasted 10 days.

Since then, Bay police officer Wes Mayley has been running the department

The mayor wants to maintain the city police force as is, with a new chief. Fillingame was ready to announce his choice for chief Tuesday, but the council would not add the item to the agenda. Fillingame says he will have the chief announcement on the agenda for the next council meeting.

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