City changes procedures for Parks & Rec cash receipts

moneyHOUSTON – The Mississippi Department of Investigation is looking into the disappearance of several thousand dollars in Houston Parks and Recreation Department funds that were reported missing last month.

The incident was initially reported as a theft by Parks and Recreation Director John Gravat on July 15 and involved funds from a city baseball tournament and the park concession stand. The Houston Board of aldermen met in executive session for more than 30-minutes last week to discuss the issue and implement new procedures for keeping records on cash handled by Parks and Rec.

“At this point I really can’t say much,” said MBI Msgt. Cory Burrow. “We are investigating this and we are interviewing people. It is an open investigation and we typically don’t say a lot until the investigation is complete.”

Burrow did say the incident was initially reported to the Houston Police Department, who referred it to the Chickasaw County Sheriff’s Department.

The case allegedly began when Gravat noticed a money bag containing park money missing from his truck.

Sheriff’s Department officials conducted an investigation and, because it involved a city employee, they referred it to MBI. The case could be presented to the Chickasaw County grand jury if the investigation warrants it.

“John called police the minute he noticed the money was missing,” said Houston Mayor Stacey Parker. “What we have done is establish some procedures for handling cash and making sure it is either deposited in the bank or brought to City Hall.”

The board met privately with Gravat for about five minutes, then met among themselves for 10-minutes and then again with Gravat before reopening the meeting and saying better security and control of cash was needed.

Parker said roughly $5,200 was allegedly stolen.

“I want people to know we found out about this, law enforcement had already been called, and we immediately contacted our attorney to deal with this,” said Parker. “The integrity of the city and a city employee is at stake and we want to get to the bottom of this.

“That is the reason it has been turned over to MBI and that is the reason we have taken the action we have,” said Parker. “We are waiting on them finish their investigation.”

Anyone with information about this case can anonymously call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-773-TIPS (8477) and if the information leads to an arrest and conviction, a cash reward will be paid.

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