Embezzlement City needs to stay on top

Published 12:04 am Friday, August 27, 2010

The FBI says employee theft is one of the most rapidly growing crimes in the country. While theft of any kind is unacceptable, it is perhaps most appalling when municipal employees or elected officials misuse or outright steal taxpayers’ money.

The Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen is thus to be commended for its pro-active approach to ensuring taxpayer funds in Vicksburg are not being misused or taken by its roughly 550 employees.

The former employee in the City Clerk’s Office who is being investigated for embezzlement, Katrina McCloud, should be presumed innocent until proved guilty. Nonetheless, the board did right by turning the matter over to the State Auditor’s Office as soon as “discrepancies with some deposits” were uncovered late last month.

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The issue easily could have been swept under the rug to avoid perceived negative publicity. McCloud was placed on unpaid leave, but soon after resigned. The investigation is ongoing.

Then there’s the case of former TV23 Director Thomas “Barry” Graham, who last month pleaded guilty to felony embezzlement and was placed on five years of probation, fined $1,500 and ordered to pay about $30,000 in restitution to the city and state.

Times are tight for everyone, including city employees, and the temptation to skim off the top of taxpayers’ coffers is not going to decrease unless employees know there is zero tolerance for embezzlement and serious repercussions for those found guilty.

The City of Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen needs to remain vigilant to ensure their bosses, the voters and taxpayers, are not being taken advantage of by those they entrust to handle their hard-earned money.