SOUTHAVEN, MS (abc24.com) - Legit business expenses or taxpayer money used for personal wining and dining? Over the last two and a half years, the city of Southaven spent tens of thousands of dollars on pricey dinners, luxury hotels and business trips.
They were all charged to the city credit card, and Mayor Greg Davis' personal card. Davis maintains he's never spent a dime on himself, but the state wants to know more about where $128,000 reimbursed to his personal card went. Davis told abc24.com it was all spent on tourism, but can he prove it?
"We are up to about $53,000 in receipts from local restaurants and businesses," said Davis. "I've already told the auditor the date and even to the best of my knowledge who was there and what."
He has to account for thousands spent on dinners, travel and hotel stays, including more than $3,000 spent in August 2010 on a hotel in Miami Beach.
"I've been on 18 trips over the last two and a half years," Davis told abc24.com. "All were preapproved, except for eight. Four of the eight were Mississippi municipal league conferences."
"The best case scenario is the receipts were not kept and it's an honest mistake," said Bud Milligan, a local businessman. "I'd hate to say on worst case scenario."
So where is the accountability? For years, the city reimbursed Davis thousands based on credit card statements, not receipts.
"We thought the credit card receipts was our information," said Davis. "It tells where we were and what date. We just had not written down who was there."
The statements were given by Davis to the city clerk. Southaven's board of alderman would approve the final amount.
"That's unacceptable documentation," said businessman Wendell Miller. "If you look at just the dates and expense shown I want to know what purpose the expenses were for."
Since Davis didn't keep receipts, the state auditor said he has to repay the city the entire amount.
"We've used Outlook to tell him the dates and where we were, he now wants detailed receipts," Davis told abc24.com. "Some are out of state. There are some I won't be able to get. I'm finding out a lot of chain restaurants only keep receipts for six months. We just hope we get through this, prove we were doing the right thing and move on. We've been keeping receipts since April and none of that was questioned. We learned our lesson, just learned it a little late."
Mayor Davis has until the beginning of December 2011, to get the receipts for the charges being questioned. He told abc24.com he hopes to have the whole thing resolved by the end of December.
Southaven's board of alderman will meet to discuss new guidelines for city spending.