Mayor Connie Moran stopped Andre Kaufman, former city Public Works director, halfway through his prepared speech to the Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, saying: “This is a city board meeting, not a venue for you to bash me.”
Kaufman, who blames the mayor for his difficulties that led to his resignation in 2015, replied: “If I don’t have the right to speak, you don’t have the right to be mayor.”
She let him finish, but she and the board were advised by their attorney to not respond to Kaufman or his accusations.
Kaufman said the mayor taunted him for years as Public Works director because he would not support her ideas and because he was outspoken. He said that more than one time when she tried to discipline him, the Board of Aldermen sided with him.
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He said he believes she had information she did not give investigators, which he feels would have stopped the investigation that, in part, cost him his job.
When the state auditor finished a two-year investigation into a system Kaufman had devised to collect and sell scrap metal for money that went back to the Public Works Department instead of the city coffers, the district attorney presented the evidence to a grand jury. The grand jury returned a no bill, which means it found insufficient evidence that a crime occurred.
A representative with the State Auditor’s Office said the 2015 investigation into the scrap sales was believed to be a “flare-up” of a probe from 2012, and at that time, the State Auditor’s Office did not prosecute anyone because investigators did not find evidence of personal gain in the situation.
However, workers in the Ocean Springs Public Works Department are no longer allowed to collect and keep anything they pick up in the city during their work hours, using city equipment on city property, the city clerk said.