SOUTHAVEN, MS (abc24.com) - Southaven Mayor Greg Davis and the city's Board of Aldermen are dealing with the fallout from the shocking announcement by the state auditor claiming Mayor Davis spent taxpayer money on personal expenses.
The city's leaders insist all that money was spent on legitimate expenses.
"It's not fun for anyone," says Alderman Greg Guy. "I absolutely want to assure the public that I don't feel any one of us has done anything intentionally wrong."
"I support the mayor," adds Alderman Ronnie Hale. "He's been fantastic for the city of Southaven. No one could ever question his credibility when it comes to the city. His passion is here with the city, even now with this rough time."
The rough time, the result of a seven month investigation by the state claiming Southaven's money was mishandled by Mayor Davis. The state auditor says Davis misused $153,588.78 by not keeping receipts, and that he owes the city a total of $170,782.28 with interest and investigative fees.
"He threw out a blanket net to charge for every expense that's been charged for travel, training and entertainment," says Davis.
The state claims the money was used for personal expenses and trips, but the mayor and board say they were all legitimate expenses used to promote the city and attract new businesses.
"Tourism related things which would include travel to our conferences and the meals, things like that," says Hale. "Hotel rooms. All that."
"The big thing that needs to be pointed out is all the funds were budgeted line items," says Davis. "We were staying within our budget and feel like we followed the law."
But Davis admits he should have kept better records. Residents are divided on the issue
"It seems kind of fishy to me," says Lakedra Bishop. "I'm glad they're looking into it."
"Maybe it's just poor record keeping," says Mary Jo Dilatush. "We know the mayor personally and think he's a really good guy. So maybe it's a glitch in the system or something."
"The majority of these expenses are going to be justifiable," says Hale. "There's going to obviously be a lack of documentation, but in the long run the number will be nowhere near this amount. I'm sure."
Southaven instituted changes since the state launched its investigation in April. The city now keeps all expense receipts, and as of Wednesday, November 2, 2011, must have all travel pre-approved.
The state auditor's office says it can't release the exact list of what Davis owes because there's a chance this could become a criminal investigation.
The mayor will have to pay for expenses he can't justify with receipts. Davis has a month to account for the money and come up with a plan to pay back what's owed. Southaven's Board of Aldermen could also be held responsible for some of the expenses since they approved them.