Ex-North Lee leader pleads guilty

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

ABERDEEN – Former North Lee County Water Association manager Dan Durham faces up to five years in prison for his guilty plea Wednesday to lying about water samples.
Durham, 66, who was forced to resign from his post in October 2011 amid employees’ allegations of corruption, appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Sharion Aycock.
The government accused Durham of one count of intentionally making false or fictitious statements to public agencies about water samples supposedly taken at sites throughout the water district.
Tests actually were taken at one location, 551 County Road 503, which is a rural Guntown address.
Durham also faces up to a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
He will not be sentenced until a report is completed for Aycock to use when she considers his punishment.
Durham was represented by Ashland attorney Tony Farese and Stephen Bailey of Tupelo. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Mims represented the government.
For his guilty plea Wednesday, the government agreed not to charge him with any other crimes related to the false statements.
More than a year ago, Durham was forced from the water association after employees claimed his involvement in various misdeeds, which they reported to the Daily Journal.
Among them were that Durham forced water employees to work side jobs for him while they were on the clock at North Lee. Other jobs occurred on properties owned by Mitchell Scruggs, who was then the board president.
Scruggs, who owns a large farm supply business and farms thousands of acres locally, resigned from the board, along with other members.
The employees also claimed that Durham falsified water sample test results to the Mississippi Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
They said he collected all water samples at one location but reported them as coming from multiple locations throughout the district.
Scruggs and Durham denied all the allegations.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com