The director of the Tupelo Public Services Department has been

The director of the Tupelo Public Services Department has been placed on administrative leave after financial records showed he may have ignored the state’s bid law.

City officials said Thursday they have begun an internal audit into the department.

Randy McMickin, the director of the Public Services Department for the last 17 months, was placed on paid leave Thursday pending the outcome of the investigation. The move came after city Financial Director Lynn Norris discovered irregularities in spending while conducting a routine, monthly examination last Friday of each of the department’s records.

Financial records from McMickin’s department showed an increase in spending of 30 to 50 percent over the previous month, Norris said.

Tupelo Mayor Jack Marshall said Thursday after an hourlong executive session meeting with the City Council that McMickin apparently approved work on a drainage project in the Ridgeway Subdivision without properly advertising for bids and without complying with the public contracting laws of the state.

The city’s preliminary investigation also showed that at least one contractor was told to charge work to a project that had already been properly bid and awarded to another contractor.

“I think Randy was probably attempting to move these projects along quickly but the laws of the state of Mississippi must be followed,” Marshall said during a news conference.

The internal investigation will look at bids and work contracts let by the department for the last six months or more. The city’s investigation is expected to last at least a month. After that, the city will decide what other steps need to be taken.

Norris, internal auditor Lucretia Winter and Tupelo’s Chief Operations Officer Joe Benefield are conducting the investigation.

So far, no records have been found to indicate McMickin, who has worked for the city for 10 years, circumvented the state’s bid law for personal gains. No money was found missing nor was any misappropriated, Marshall said.

Marshall said he has informed State Auditor Steve Patterson’s office about the incident, but reminded him that the investigation is still ongoing.

“This is just a very unfortunate situation,” Marshall said. “It’s really a case of an employee who was trying do a good job and get a lot of work accomplished but just didn’t follow the proper procedures.”

According to the state’s bid law, when work is not handled with in-house equipment and personnel, the project must be advertised and sealed bids must be taken from contractors.

In its investigation, the city learned at least one contractor who was working on one phase of a project was given the OK to do another phase without submitting a bid for the work. In the press conferences, the mayor said there were several other incidents that have raised questions.

The Ridgeway Subdivision, which is the project that caught the city’s financial eye, consists of a special assessment project where the city is installing curbs, drainage and overlaying streets. That project will be completed, Marshall said.

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