- Associated Press - Saturday, November 26, 2016

MOSS POINT, Miss. (AP) - A Mississippi mayor says he is determined to find out why money for a police benefit fund was spent at places such as nail salons, a liquor store and retail shops.

The Moss Point Police Benefit Fund was supposed to pay for community events such as the National Night Out Against Crime. But, records obtained by Sun Herald (https://bit.ly/2fl6ie3 ) show two former city employees spent it at places with no obvious connection to such events.

Responding to the newspaper’s request, the city released records showing employees spent more than $7,800 during 23 months, from 2014 to this year.

Mayor Billy Broomfield said he suspected some spending was inappropriate, but his name was not on the account and the bank would not release records when he requested them years ago. He said the State Auditor’s Office is investigating potential fraud involving money from the fund.

“You may get by for a while, but what happened will be revealed,” Broomfield said.

The Secretary of State’s Office said the Moss Point Police Department Benefit Fund has never been registered as a nonprofit account. However, the account relied on donations from the public, including from local churches and businesses.

City officials said the money was supposed to be used to buy items for events such as Harvest Fest, Trunk-or-Treat and Christmas festivities on the water. The police department typically used the money to buy door prizes and to cover costs of food and other items such as information about neighborhood-watch programs.

The two city employees authorized to use the account are no longer employed by Moss Point. Former Court Clerk Supervisor Michelle Hodge and former Police Chief Art McClung were authorized to use the account, Broomfield confirmed.

Hodge resigned after aldermen voted in October to fire her for reasons that were not specified in minutes from the meeting. However, Broomfield said the vote came after he told city leaders about the questionable spending in the police benefit fund. The Sun Herald was not able to reach Hodge for comment.

McClung resigned in September after Pascagoula police stopped him July 29 because he was clocked there driving 109 mph and acknowledged he had drunk “at least three vodkas.” Pascagoula police gave him a ride home.

Questionable spending came to light after Brandon Ashley was appointed interim police chief and looked at the account. The city alerted the District Attorney’s Office, and the State Auditor’s Office launched its investigation. The auditor is not commenting on the probe.

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