Former mayor ordered to pay back $73,000

PAY UP: Former Southaven mayor Greg Davis owes the taxpayers more than $73,000 after a decision was handed down Tuesday by a Hinds County judge.

By Steve Wilson | Mississippi Watchdog

Former Southaven Mayor Greg Davis ran up a large tab for extravagant trips and meals, and now he has to pay bay his city’s taxpayers.

Davis was ordered by Hinds County Chancery Court judge Dewayne Thomas to pay the full amount — $73,915.27 — demanded by the state auditor’s office.

“We were confident all along that this was the decision the judge would eventually get to,” Mississippi State Auditor Stacey Pickering said after Tuesday’s ruling. “The staff that works in our office do a great job of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s. We don’t issue civil demands lightly, and we make sure we can stand before a judge and defend our position.

“Just like the public, we get frustrated with how slowly the wheels of justice turn. But today proves the fact that the wheels of justice do turn.”

Repeated calls for comment to Davis’ attorney, Michael Heilman, were not returned

The state audito began its investigation of Davis’ reimbursements from the city in March 2011 and issued a demand for more than $170,000 for:

  • $128,642.59 that was paid to Davis’ credit card based on personal invoices.
  • Two payments of $8,410 and $12,108 paid for marriage counseling for Davis
  • $4,428.19 in charges related to his trip to Scottsdale, Ariz., for marriage counseling.
  • $16,822.14 in interest.
  • $13,571.18 in investigative costs.

Among the charges Davis billed to the city were expensive meals at a local steakhouse, thousands of dollars worth of liquor and visits to Priape, a now-defunct Toronto adult store that caters to gay men.

“It was very clear, very obvious, in this case that the money was misappropriated,” Pickering said. “The mayor provided false documentation to the aldermen and this money needs to be paid back. A grand jury agreed and issued an indictment. This case will move forward as we hold this individual accountable for the decisions he made.”

Davis paid back more than $13,000 to cover charges related to his marriage counseling and made a payment in December 2011 of $96,000 towards the demand.

The auditor issued a second demand in April 2012 for more than $73,000 that included:

  • $62,881.89 from the first demand.
  • $5,951.96 for charges on Davis’ city-issued credit card.
  • 12 percent of Davis’ mileage reimbursement that totaled $4,477.92.
  • $603.50 in per diem that Davis received from his Scottsdale trip for marriage counseling.

In August 2012, the auditor sued to get Davis to pay the full amount, while the former mayor had a counterclaim that requested the return of the $96,000 he’d already paid back to taxpayers.

“I wouldn’t call it one of the more egregious cases we’ve handled, but it was definitely higher profile since it was a mayor who actually challenged our civil demands,” Pickering said. “This was the first time we’d been in a civil trial in a case of this magnitude.”

Davis, who left office in June 2013 after being defeated in his bid for a fifth term, was indicted on two unrelated counts of embezzlement by a public official and one count of false pretense and will stand trial June 9 in DeSoto County.

“The first takeaway from this case is that our job is necessary and essential to the taxpayers,” Pickering said. “The second is if you’re a public official and you do this, you’re not going to get away with it.”

Contact Steve Wilson at swilson@watchdog.org

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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