State auditor releases ‘Exceptions Report’

By Russell Hood
The Webster Progress-Times

State Auditor Stacey Pickering announced the release of the Fiscal Year 2014 Audit Exception Report on Aug. 1.
The money recovered during the previous fiscal year included over $5,000

for Webster County, according to the report.
The report is a legally mandated account of all misappropriated or misspent public funds and the actions taken by the State Auditor’s Office for recovery and return of those funds to the appropriate entities for FY 2014.
An audit “exception” indicates that a violation of the law or an accounting error resulted in public funds being misappropriated or spent incorrectly. The term also refers to money that must be repaid.
“The Office of the State Auditor continues to serve as a watchdog organization to ensure that tax dollars are protected, and we pledge to perform our jobs with integrity, honesty and a commitment to excellence,” Pickering said in a news release.
“We continue to protect the public’s trust through evaluations of accounting practices and aggressive investigations of alleged wrongdoing. We believe the taxpayers of Mississippi deserve no less.”
The total amount of funds recovered by the Office of the State Auditor for the fiscal year ending June 30 was $1.52 million.
Since January 2008, over $20 million in misappropriated and embezzled funds has been recovered.
Webster County
Demands Paid
The OSA issued formal written demands on Feb. 21, 2013, for “Abuse of Office and Work on Private Property” by former Deputy Sheriff Danny Wayne Pittman and former Sheriff Phillip Smith, according to the report.
Demands of $3,337.10 were issued against Pittman and $1,715.32 against Smith. The report states that for Fiscal Year 2014, payment from their bond company “was received, balance paid in full and returned to the appropriate deserving entity.”
Although the report does not give specifics of the matter involving the two, it apparently involved the use of inmates to clean up storm debris at the Eupora County Club.
The Progress-Times reported Aug. 18, 2011, that the OSA confirmed it had an ongoing investigation of the Webster County Sheriff’s Department.
The auditor’s office would not provide specifics of the case then, but an area television station reported the week before that numerous sources had told it storm debris cleanup was done at the Eupora Country Club following that April’s tornado here. Smith was in office at the time and Pittman was a part-time deputy.
The station said the club was not aware inmates would be used at any time during the reported weeklong cleanup.
Smith, in a statement given to the newspaper for the article, denied any wrongdoing with county inmates with cleanup efforts after the tornado. He said he used inmates to clean roadways, houses, churches, cemeteries and the Eupora Country Club, but that he did not gain financially by using them.
“It is a good feeling knowing that all the people we helped during this tragic time of need appreciate us for our hard work and efforts,” he stated then.
Pittman resigned in May 2011 and Smith was defeated in the Democratic runoff on Aug. 23, 2011, in his re-election bid for a second term.
The full Audit Exception Report can be accessed on the Internet at http://www.osa.state.ms.us/documents/investigative/inv2014.pdf.