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Audit orders MBN director to repay more than $30,000 in overtime and other expenses

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MBN Executive Director John Dowdy.

John Dowdy, executive director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics may be repaying the state’s taxpayers $30,122.

In a routine audit of the bureau, the office of Mississippi State Auditor Shad White found “significant deficiencies and instances of noncompliance with state law.”

Five times in 2017 and 2018, Dowdy received improper payment for compensatory time buy backs, the audit found, totaling $27,662.

Compensatory time, or comp time, accrues when an employee works overtime. In some workplaces, including the MBN, employee can choose to take the equivalent time off in subsequent weeks or he or she can opt to be paid for that time through comp buy backs.

At the MBN, law enforcement officers can buy back up to 300 hours of comp time, while civilians are limited to 100 hours per year. All buy backs must be approved by the commissioner of public safety.

Dowdy is a civilian, according to the audit findings, and his buybacks totaled 275 hours in 2017 and 300 hours in 2018. He received approval of the buybacks for only one request of 50 hours. Payments were made over the objections of some MBN staff, some of whom put their objections in writing. The fact that Dowdy got approval of some comp buybacks also shows he was aware of the law, the audit says.

The audit also found that Dowdy used a clothing allowance intended only for law enforcement officers. Those expenses, totaling $2,450, included a pair of Cole Haan shoes for $195. The auditor termed some of the expenses “extravagant.”

Agency personnel relied on Dowdy’s assurance that he was a sworn law enforcement officer; however, the audit makes a clear case that he has not met the qualifications and certifications outlined by state law.

Additionally, the audit states that “if any individual does not meet the minimum standards of certification, the state agency employing said individual is prohibited from paying the salary of the individual or using any public funds to pay for equipment, or support of any law enforcement activities.”

Accordingly, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety could also be on the hook for repaying $313,261 in Dowdy’s salary and compensation to the state.

The MBN disagreed with the findings of the audit report as it applies to Dowdy in a response signed by him.

“The Auditor’s office must fairly enforce the laws around spending. Everyone—whether you are a clerk in a small town or a director of a large state agency—must follow those laws. Enforcing the law fairly is exactly what we are doing in this audit,” State Auditor White told the Associated Press.

Read the audit report and the MBN response online.

 

Crime

Vicksburg teenager faces multiple charges after Sunday night incident

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Staci Foster (photo courtesy VPD)

A Vicksburg teenager faces multiple charges in connection with an incident that occurred Sunday night.

Police arrested Staci Foster, 18, after the car Foster was driving struck a 21-year-old woman on Grange Hall Road around 11:41 p.m. Sunday. The victim was transported to the University of Mississippi Medical Center for treatment.

Foster was charged with one count of aggravated assault domestic violence, one count of leaving the scene of an accident with injury and one count of reckless driving.

She appeared in Vicksburg Municipal Court Monday before Judge Angela Carpenter who set her bond at $105,000 and bound her over to the Warren County grand jury.

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Education

MS treasurer announces Black Friday giveaway to encourage saving for college

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Monday, Mississippi Treasurer David McRae announced a $1,000 Black Friday siveaway to encourage Mississippians to begin saving for college.

College Savings Mississippi, a division of the State Treasury, will be giving one lucky family a $1,000 scholarship when they open a Mississippi Affordable College Savings account between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“With Black Friday as the traditional kick-off to holiday shopping, we’re hoping to remind Mississippians that the gift of a college degree is a gift that will keep on giving,” McRae said in a news release. “Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, consider making a contribution to a loved one’s college savings plan this gift-giving season.”

A tax-advantaged MACS account, which can be opened for as little as $25, offers families maximum flexibility. The money contributed to this account can be used for tuition, books, supplies, and certain room and board expenses, as well as elementary and secondary tuition expenses for younger students.

For the Black Friday Giveaway, any family who opens a new MACS account between Nov. 27 (“Black Friday”) and Nov. 30 (“Cyber Monday”) will be entered to win the $1,000 scholarship. The winner will be drawn at random.

To open an account, visit Treasury.MS.gov/CollegeSavings. For complete rules for the giveaway, download this document (PDF).

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News

Two-vehicle crash on Sherman Avenue

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(photo by Thomas Parker)

Warren County Sheriff’s officials responded to a two-car crash on Sherman Avenue at the entrance to Sherman Avenue Elementary Monday around 3:16 p.m.

Initial reports indicated there were injuries, but occupants of both vehicles declined to be transported to a medical facility.

The accident should be cleared by 4:15 p.m.

Culkin Engine 205, Rescue, Fire Medic 30 all responded along with Vicksburg Deputy Fire Chief Trey Martin (FD-2) and Warren County Fire Coordinator Jerry Briggs. Sgt. Silento McMorris, Investigator Stacy Rollison and Deputy Ronnie Fuller from the Warren County Sheriff’s Office responded to the scene as well.

Sgt. McMorris is conducting the investigation into this accident.

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