Several police officers have either resigned or been terminated this week over a pending federal investigation of a “secret” discretionary checking account, City Councilman-at-large Mike Favre said.
An FBI investigation revolves around a fundraising account that appeared to be a legitimate city account but was, in fact, not authorized by the city, city and county leaders said.
Hancock County Sheriff Ricky Adam said he was aware of the investigation but said his department is not investigating the matter. He deferred questions to the FBI.
Councilman Lonnie Falgout said he is disappointed over the many investigations into the city’s police department. He said the controversy is the main reason he explored an administrative takeover by the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office.
“As a recent past president of the council, I was aware of investigations into many areas of the Bay St. Louis Police Department,” he said. “One of the reasons I entertained having the sheriff take management and control of the Bay St. Louis police Department a few months ago was because ... there were some things with the department that concerned me over the last couple of years.
“We went from finding that we had a police DOJ fund that was established on paper but monetarily was not there, to a police chief being investigated for evidentiary items that were missing and being pawned, and the police chief’s suicide.
“We also found possible payroll-fraud allegations with other members of the department, as well as problems with security of the evidence locker, and IT breaches that resulted in lost evidence.”
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Falgout said he hopes this is the last investigation into the police department but would not be surprised if there were more to come.
“I feel the administration of the police department has been broken for a long time,” he said. “I think there should have been more oversight, and I believe this may be just the tip of the iceberg.”
Mayor Les Fillingame would not comment on the investigation but confirmed the officers’ resignations and terminations.
Newly hired Police Chief Darren Freeman declined to comment on the personnel and investigative matters, but said he is committed to setting a high standard in the department.
“We have set the bar high for our department, and we are moving in a very positive way,” he said.