Vicksburg to seek insurance in theft

Published 12:05 pm Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vicksburg is seeking money from its insurer to cover losses associated with embezzlement by a former city employee.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen on Monday authorized Mayor Paul Winfield to execute an insurance form supporting a $28,530.68 claim for losses caused by former TV23 Director Thomas “Barry” Graham, who pleaded guilty last month to using city funds to buy audio equipment for himself.

Graham was accused of embezzlement after Winfield’s office contacted state officials last fall about the possible misuse of funds in the TV23 department. An investigation by the office of State Auditor Stacey Pickering followed.

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As part of his sentence, Graham was ordered to pay the city for electronics and audio equipment he admitted buying with city funds.

City attorney Lee Davis Thames Jr. said that the insurance form was executed by Winfield at the instruction of Pickering’s office.

According to Lisa Shoemaker, a spokesman for Pickering, the claim is standard procedure designed to provide Vicksburg with immediate compensation for Graham’s embezzlement.

“It may take an individual 10 to 20 years to pay restitution, depending on ability to pay,” Shoemaker said. “It’s absolutely in the city’s best interest to be paid sooner.”

After paying the city, the insurer will likely seek reimbursement for the claim from Graham, according to Shoemaker.

Thames said that the improperly obtained equipment confiscated by the city from Graham’s house last fall will be disposed of at the auditor’s direction.

In other actions Monday, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen:

• Gave Building and Inspections Director Victor Gray-Lewis permission to cut grass and weeds and remove trash and debris from property at 2502 and 2504 Franklin St. and at 1223 Harrison St.

• Granted 60-day extensions to owners of property at 2334 and 2338 Grove St. and at 2312 Pearl St. to, respectively, remove a dilapidated building, remove two dilapidated buildings and cut grass and weeds, remove trash and debris and remove a dilapidated building.

• Authorized Winfield to execute an agreement with the Washington-Warren-Issaquena-Sharkey Community Action Agency on behalf of Vicksburg’s Water and Gas Administration. Established in 1972, WWISCAA helps low-income residents pay utility bills. The deal executed by the mayor covers payment procedures.

• Received bids for landscaping supplies, police and fire department uniforms and asphalt.

• Authorized City Clerk Walter Osborne to advertise for sealed bids for lawn maintenance, concrete and the installation of perimeter fencing at the Vicksburg Municipal Airport.

• Conducted a public hearing regarding the downtown taxing district, an area of the city in which an assessment is added to property taxes to support the chartered business development and promotions organization known as Vicksburg Main Street. The board reviewed Main Street’s projected budget for the upcoming fiscal year and solicited public comments. None were made, but the hearing was technically kept open through 10 a.m. today for comments from the public.

• OK’d multiple budget amendments.

• Reviewed a schedule of city departmental meetings designed to support the United Way’s 2010 fundraising campaign.

• Approved the additions of Jarred Gleese and Charles Brown to the city’s employee driving list.

In closed session, the board:

• OK’d a pay adjustment in the Vicksburg Police Department and two pay adjustments in the Vicksburg Fire Department.

• Accepted the resignation of one employee from the city’s right of way department and terminated nine employees from the recreation, cemetery and sewer departments. All but one of the terminated employees were temporary summer workers.

• OK’d one suspension in the gas department.

• Discussed potential litigation involving the accounting and engineering departments.

The next city board meeting is set for 10 a.m. Aug. 25 in room 109 of the City Hall Annex, 1415 Walnut St.