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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.

 

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MDOT announces I-20 lane closures near Clinton

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If your commute regularly takes you to and from Clinton, Miss., be advised that you will likely be dealing with slow traffic for a couple of months starting next week.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation announced today that it would be closing the inside lanes of both eastbound and westbound Interstate 20 at Norrell Road (exit 31) starting Monday, Jan. 27, at 7 a.m.

The work, which will make repairs to bridges over Norrell Road in Hinds County, is expected to take about 60 days.

Please use caution in the area and expect delays.

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Corps’ mat sinking unit suspended revetment season due to flooding

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The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District’s Mat Sinking Unit suspended its 2019 revetment season Jan. 21. The season was suspended due to adverse river conditions caused by flooded riverbanks and high velocity flows. The unit will remain on standby for approximately one month as district engineers and technical experts monitor river conditions for the opportunity to complete scheduled work. If conditions are favorable, the unit will potentially resume work in late February. (photo courtesy USACE)

From the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Vicksburg District’s Mat Sinking Unit suspended its 2019 revetment season Jan. 21.

The season was suspended due to adverse river conditions caused by flooded riverbanks and high-velocity flows. The unit will remain on standby for approximately one month as district engineers and technical experts monitor river conditions for the opportunity to complete scheduled work. If conditions are favorable, the unit will potentially resume work in late February.

During the 2019 season, the unit has placed approximately 170,000 squares of articulated concrete mattress along the banks of the Mississippi River to prevent erosion, protect key areas of the riverbank and flood control works and provide a safe, reliable channel for navigation.

“For more than 70 years, the Mat Sinking Unit has taken on the unique and important task of preventing erosion and maintaining navigation up and down the Mississippi River,” said Vicksburg District Commander Col. Robert Hilliard in a statement. “The Mississippi River serves as a vital commercial waterway and drainage system for the nation, and the hard work of the unit allows it to perform those crucial functions.”

Unparalleled across the world, the Mat Sinking Unit is a feat of skilled labor and technological innovation. A mat sinking barge, a mat supply barge, quarter barges, spar barges, gantry cranes, bulldozers and motor vessels are among the equipment used by the unit to help maintain the Mississippi River’s stabilization and navigation. Each season, approximately 50 full-time and 220 seasonal or temporary employees live on quarter boats and work 10-hour shifts and 12-consecutive-day work periods to execute the mission. The unit typically operates when river stages are at their lowest and conducts work that spans the jurisdictions of the Memphis, Vicksburg and New Orleans districts.

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Warrenton Road blocked due to accidents

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Warrenton Road is blocked from U.S. Highway 61 South to near Lady Luck Casino due to two accidents reportedly caused by a vehicle pulled over due to a medical incident.

Plan on taking another route until about 4:30 p.m.

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