State auditor to join Tupelo public works probe

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State auditor to join Tupelo public works probe

By Philip Moulden

Daily Journal

State Auditor Steve Patterson has assigned an investigative auditor to work with Tupelo officials in their probe of allegations the city’s public works director violated state bid laws.

“They will be on the ground Monday morning,” Patterson said of state officials. He said his auditor will conduct meetings with city officials, then join in the internal investigation.

“It is not a member of my investigative staff,” Patterson noted. “It is an investigative auditor, a CPA (certified public accountant).”

Mayor Jack Marshall, who welcomed the state presence, said the internal audit is progressing well. But he said it will probably be another two to three weeks before the investigation is completed.

“We have virtually completed the analytical part of it,” the mayor said. “Then we have to compare what we found in the analytical part with the actual work that was done.”

Of the state’s planned intervention, Marshall said, “They’ve been very cooperative. They’re working with us real good. They’re just going to look over our shoulders a little bit.”

Public Service Department Director Randy McMickin was placed on paid administrative leave last week after city financial officers discovered apparent irregularities in the department’s financial outlays.

In announcing McMickin’s suspension, Marshall said it appeared the director had approved work on a drainage and street project in Ridgeway subdivision without advertising for bids and without complying with the state’s public contracting laws.

The preliminary investigation also indicated that at least one contractor had been told to charge work to a project that had been bid and awarded to another contractor.

The initial probe produced no indication that McMickin personally benefited in any way or that any funds were misappropriated.

Marshall noted the problem has stalled the work at the subdivision, creating some hardships for residents.

The mayor said he met with a subdivision homeowners association leader and they set a meeting for 6 p.m. today to explain the situation to all subdivision residents. The meeting is scheduled for the board room at the City Hall Annex on Court Street.

The special assessment project, whose cost is borne by homeowners and the city on a prorated basis, was to provide curbs and gutters, improve drainage, and overlay the street.

“The project is started, but of course there’s nobody working on it right now … (not) until we get this cleared up,” Marshall said.

“We want to update them (residents) and try to tell them when the work will be done.”

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