The City Council implicated the widow of former Police Chief Mike De Nardo in a payroll-fraud investigation Tuesday when the council members decided to file a notice of a potential claim against her surety bond.
In a unanimous decision, the council directed City Attorney Trent Favre to issue a claim notice against the surety bond for Patricia De Nardo on the grounds of payroll fraud, Councilman Lonnie Falgout said.
Patricia De Nardo was a part-time police officer under her husband’s command until he fatally shot himself outside the police station Sept. 8. Mayor Les Fillingame said she resigned shortly afterward.
The council ordered a similar notice to be filed against the late police chief’s surety bond on the grounds of payroll fraud and stolen property from the city, Falgout said. That decision also was unanimous.
Earlier this year, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office began a “multi-point investigation” into several city departments and officials in Bay St. Louis — not just Mike De Nardo, Sheriff Ricky Adam said in an interview Wednesday.
The investigation remains active and includes, among other things, allegations the police chief had committed payroll fraud and embezzled money from the sale of department-issued firearms. Federal authorities, including the FBI and ATF, also are conducting inquiries.
“We’re still actively involved in the investigation,” said Jason Denham, agent in charge of the ATF’s Gulfport field office.
County and municipal employees are often required to obtain a surety bond, which is a financial guarantee the employee will perform his or her duties. Bonds are typically sold by insurance companies and vary in dollar amount. Mike De Nardo was bonded for $50,000, the minimum state law requires for a police chief. His wife was bonded for $25,000, the minimum required for an officer.
However, the mayor believes the council is acting “prematurely” by filing notices with the bonding companies and said he will likely veto its decision.
“We don’t have anything to say if she’s guilty or not guilty,” Fillingame said. “We’ve got nothing to base that on yet except for suspicion.”
He said it’s also premature to issue a claim notice against Mike De Nardo.
But with support already unanimous for both decisions, the council may act to override the mayor’s veto.
“We’re going to override it, absolutely,” Falgout said. “I can’t see how he’s basing this on suspicion when the facts are the facts.”
The council’s actions Tuesday were based on additional information received from the city attorney, other agencies and even the mayor, he said.
“We’re going to continue assisting in the investigation, and one of the questions we have is, ‘Who approved these time sheets?’ ” Falgout said.