Word of Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr's 16-count indictment quickly spread through the city of Gulfport. Many people say they were shocked, not only with the federal charges against the mayor and his wife, but also the many years of prison time and millions in fines the Warrs could face, if they are convicted. Trang Pham-Bui has reaction to the Warrs' legal troubles.More >>
Reaction from Gulfport city council members ranged from shock to sorrow after hearing news of the mayor's federal indictment. The city's chief administrator, John Kelly, wants citizens to know that the business of the city will continue to move forward. Dr. Kelly said he expects Mayor Warr back at his desk at "seven forty five" Thursday morning.More >>
The rumors that have swirled around Brent Warr for almost a year are true. The federal government has built a case that accuses Gulfport's mayor -- and his wife -- of Katrina fraud. Brent and Laura Warr both pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a 16 count indictment. Brad Kessie reports.More >>
Brent Warr became Gulfport's mayor on June 7th, 2005. Before that, he ran the family business -- a men's clothing store. He served on a bank board, and he dabbled in real estate. Brad Kessie has this look back at the last four years of Brent Warr's life.More >>
It started with an e-mail last Tuesday. A Gulfport businessman dropped me a note, because he heard gossip that Brent Warr had been indicted.
By late Friday afternoon, the phones at WLOX News rang off the hook. People "in the know" claimed that the Gulfport mayor had been served with legal papers.
Good journalists don't run with a story until they get two sources to go "on the record" with details about an issue. So, we went to work, contacting everybody we could think of to make sure WLOX News reported the facts.
One problem. Nobody, and I mean nobody, would talk with me on the record about Brent Warr and federal Katrina fraud charges.
Off the record, I heard a lot.
One source told me about an 11 count indictment. Another said the government came up with 14 charges.
I found out, OFF THE RECORD, about a meeting Mayor Warr held with Gulfport department heads and one council representative (though a second showed up). Nobody at that meeting would answer questions about what was discussed.
Was there an indictment? I still didn't know.
Finally, one of my most trusted sources said to relax, the indictments would be unsealed the following week. There was nothing to report on Friday. I could relax. Yet, my phone kept ringing.
People called me at home on Saturday and Sunday. Why wasn't WLOX News reporting the Warr indictments? Why? Because they hadn't been served. And if they had, nobody ON THE RECORD confirmed that information to us.
When I returned to work on Monday morning, I milked my sources again. Late in the day, I struck pay dirt. I finally heard from a reliable source -- OFF THE RECORD -- that Mayor Warr and his wife would be in a federal courtroom on Wednesday morning.
Two other sources -- OFF THE RECORD -- confirmed that court appearance. I knew where to be. But I still had nothing to report.
It wasn't until Brent and Laura Warr walked into Federal Magistrate John Roper's courtroom for case number 1:08cr132WJGRHW, the United States of America v. Gregory Brent Warr and Laura Jean Warr, that all those suspicions and rumors had ON THE RECORD attribution.
The sources were wrong. The government had 16 charges against the Warrs, not the 11 or 14 previously mentioned. And the person who told me Laura Warr was indicted on just one charge was way off base. She was linked to every count, just like her husband.
Here's my point. I pride myself on accurate reporting. So does this television station. If we can't verify a story ON THE RECORD, we won't run with it.
Ironically, while I was writing this, my boss came over. He heard another rumor that could be linked to the Warr story. Time to work the phones again to find a reliable source who will confirm the information ON THE RECORD.