- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) - The City of Hattiesburg will pay Pine Belt Oil about $14,400 for alleged fraudulent purchases made with city-issued gasoline cards in 2013.

The Hattiesburg American reports (http://hatne.ws/1B6Q7kZ ) that city attorney Charles Lawrence received permission from city council earlier this month to settle a lawsuit over the purchases pending Forrest County Court.

The two credit cards had been issued to the city’s Water and Sewer Department.

“Since it was not an actual purchase made by the city, the only way for them (Pine Belt) to be paid was to file the lawsuit,” Lawrence said.

By mid-January, two men - Contrelle Hagans and Dennis Martin - were arrested and charged with credit card fraud. Martin was a former city employee. Hagans did not work for the city.

The incident led to Mayor Johnny DuPree putting in place a more stringent system of gasoline procurement for city vehicles.

Among the new requirements:

- Fuel cards will continue to be assigned to specific vehicles, but no longer kept in the vehicle. Instead, appropriate department heads, directors or supervisors will distribute cards to employees designated as drivers at the beginning of a shift. Those cards must be returned at day’s end.

- Only those designated as drivers will be issued daily cards, and each will have to activate a personal identification number before the cards can be used.

- Gasoline purchases are more closely monitored, with supervisors compiling a daily log of card activity.

- Only emergency vehicles are permitted to use cards outside the city’s fuel center, and those will be limited to only four Minit-Mart sites in the city.

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Information from: The Hattiesburg American, http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com

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