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Auditor: Town Creek board owes more than $500,000 to property owners

MGN Online

The following is a news release from the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor.

Posted: Mar 4, 2019 11:07 PM
Updated: Mar 5, 2019 10:45 AM

The following is a news release from the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor.

TUPELO, Miss. (Press Release) – Today (Monday) at a press conference State Auditor Shad White announced he has issued demand letters to each current member of the Town Creek Master Water Management District Board of Commissioners for approving unlawful per diem payments to themselves. The total of all demands is $523,388.76 and includes interest and cost of recovery. The names of the commissioners including one deceased individual and the corresponding demand amounts are:

James Robinson - $85,877.68
Jim Bucy - $88,100.56
Jim Long - $11,797.71
The late John Morgan - $103,122.60
Kenneth Oswalt - $95,748.05
Luther Oswalt - $23,565.43
Michael Pannell - $90,853.43
Teressa Winters - $24,323.30

The Town Creek Master Water Management District was created by court order in 1961 to provide flood management and improve water drainage in Lee, Pontotoc, Prentiss, and Union Counties. Water management districts were once popular in the United States, but Town Creek District is now one of four master water management districts remaining in the nation and the only one in Mississippi.

The Town Creek Board collects revenue by assessing a tax on property located within the special district. The tax is collected as part of property owners’ property taxes paid to their county tax collector. Nearly 4,700 parcels of land—which includes homes and commercial property like Barnes Crossing Mall—are located in the district. Over 4,400 of those parcels are in Lee County.

Using their taxing authority, the Board paid for retention ponds and drainage ditches over the past half-century. In addition, the Board accumulated a bank account balance of approximately $1.3 million.

As that balance increased, the Board increased their own pay from the district’s bank accounts. The Board has legal authority to receive maximum per diem payments of $12.50 for time spent conducting the district’s business. They are also reimbursed for actual expenses incurred for their work. Seventeen years ago, the Board began steadily increasing the per diem payments over the legal limit. By 2014, Board members were paying themselves $600 per meeting.

Auditor White said, “This is an example of a small, tucked-away board that very few people know about, using its power to overpay itself. This is the danger of hidden boards and small government offices. A lack of transparency opens the door to big losses for taxpayers.”

The illegal overpayments caused a loss of over $350,000 to local landowners. Board members will be personally responsible for paying back these losses plus interest and investigative costs.

“I am committed to recovering this money for property owners in Lee, Pontotoc, Prentiss, and Union Counties,” said White. “They took a loss—and many of them may not have even known they were paying a tax to this Board—and deserve to be made whole.”

Each Board member is covered by a surety bond. A bond is a type of insurance policy for taxpayers which helps ensure misspent public funds are recovered.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 96032

Reported Deaths: 2894
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7110159
DeSoto556559
Harrison385374
Jackson348670
Madison329788
Rankin329377
Lee271468
Forrest247872
Jones247579
Washington223872
Lafayette217339
Lauderdale2049125
Bolivar184066
Oktibbeha177850
Lamar170035
Lowndes156958
Neshoba1566104
Panola147129
Sunflower146546
Warren140550
Leflore140481
Pontotoc126616
Pike123451
Monroe122868
Copiah118433
Scott117427
Coahoma115528
Holmes109659
Marshall109517
Lincoln109053
Grenada108336
Yazoo105930
Simpson103346
Union99724
Tate98737
Leake95338
Adams93837
Wayne90021
Pearl River88353
Marion85935
Prentiss85517
Covington82022
Itawamba81521
Alcorn80311
George77113
Newton77024
Tallahatchie77021
Winston73819
Tishomingo68238
Chickasaw67924
Tippah66917
Attala65925
Walthall60026
Clay59218
Clarke58746
Hancock58222
Jasper57315
Noxubee54816
Smith53215
Calhoun51512
Tunica48615
Claiborne46316
Montgomery46120
Lawrence43313
Yalobusha43314
Perry42319
Humphreys37715
Greene37517
Quitman3735
Stone37112
Jefferson Davis34111
Webster33813
Amite32910
Carroll31612
Wilkinson30518
Kemper28915
Sharkey26613
Jefferson2439
Benton2263
Franklin1923
Choctaw1856
Issaquena1043
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 134231

Reported Deaths: 2357
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19572348
Mobile13320292
Montgomery8811183
Tuscaloosa8586117
Madison782078
Shelby592349
Lee588759
Baldwin545650
Marshall393343
Calhoun349942
Etowah343945
Morgan327328
Houston280221
Elmore265947
DeKalb240620
St. Clair230835
Walker230683
Talladega214628
Limestone208820
Cullman189020
Dallas178326
Franklin176729
Autauga175725
Russell17573
Lauderdale169833
Colbert164126
Blount160815
Escambia160324
Chilton156431
Jackson156011
Covington138527
Dale135844
Coffee13206
Pike119410
Chambers116142
Tallapoosa115685
Clarke108916
Marion95729
Butler91639
Barbour8737
Winston73812
Marengo71620
Pickens65614
Lowndes65327
Bibb65210
Randolph64213
Hale63428
Lawrence61623
Geneva6074
Cherokee60313
Bullock59914
Monroe5848
Clay5797
Washington55613
Perry5416
Crenshaw53632
Conecuh53511
Wilcox53111
Henry4935
Macon48119
Fayette4508
Sumter43519
Lamar3662
Cleburne3646
Choctaw34912
Greene30315
Coosa1683
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