Indicted Gulfport mayor talks about still running his city

Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr
Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr
Rendering of the old Gulfport courthouse
Rendering of the old Gulfport courthouse

By Brad Kessie - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - When Brent Warr walked out of court a week ago, the indicted mayor said he was still fully engaged in the day to day operations of his city. Supporters saw an example of that Wednesday morning when Warr presided over a groundbreaking ceremony on Courthouse Road.

After the groundbreaking was over, the mayor spoke to WLOX News about running Gulfport with a Katrina fraud indictment hanging over his head.

No new revelations came out of the brief talk with Mayor Warr. What caught our attention was Warr's demeanor before and after the talk. The mayor walked through the crowd, just like he always has, talking and joking with friends and city workers.

"Thank you all for coming out," he told the groundbreaking participants, noting that because it was so chilly, he would talk a bit quicker to get done faster. Warr stood near Gulfport's waterfront, and helped the city break ground on a project that will recreate the historic courthouse on Courthouse Road.

After the shovel ceremony, he was asked if it was any more difficult working on Gulfport's future with an indictment hanging over his head. "Not at all," the mayor said.

A federal judge unsealed a 16 count indictment against Brent and Laura Warr last Wednesday. In it, prosecutors alleged the mayor and his wife committed Katrina fraud when they received $222,000 in grants and insurance proceeds to rebuild their beachfront home.

Warr would not talk about the charges. He did talk about the support his family has received.

"It's been overwhelming the outreach from the community, and the support and the understanding. And we just appreciate everybody's thoughts and prayers so much. It's been very heartwarming," he said.

The comments on since Warr's not guilty plea have run the gamut. We heard from one person who was praying the Warrs would be left alone. We also had a comment posted that said, "Stealing from your city and other residents who needed Katrina money is a crime." That viewer added, "I pray he gets punished and steps down from his position."

The mayor has made it clear -- through what he hasn't said -- that he has no intention of leaving city hall. At no time during Tuesday's city council meeting, did Mayor Warr mention his legal troubles, because he didn't want them to deflect from his job.

"It's business as usual. There's no reason to talk about it. We're just still working," he said.

Brent Warr's trial on the Katrina fraud charges is currently scheduled for April 6, 2009.