State auditor cites state bureau of narcotics director for improper comp time pay

Published 4:53 pm Thursday, December 5, 2019

Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Director John Dowdy was improperly paid for working extra hours and inappropriately used a clothing allowance that should not have been available to him, the state auditor’s office said in a report released Thursday.

The report from Auditor Shad White said Dowdy should repay MBN $27,662 for compensatory time buyouts he received and $2,450 for shirts and other clothing he bought with the allowance.

MBN disagreed with many findings of the audit report, including how Dowdy is classified. The audit report said Dowdy falls under civilian rules for MBN employees because he has not met qualifications to be a law enforcement officer.

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MBN said Dowdy received credentials in 2017 from his boss, public safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher, that authorized him to carry firearms and serve warrants.

The agency also said a previous public safety commissioner swore in Dowdy and gave him “powers equivalent to a law enforcement officer.”

The auditor said the state made five payments to buy comp time from Dowdy but four of them were not approved by the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, as they should have been. MBN is part of the department.

MBN rules say law enforcement agents may accrue up to 300 hours of comp time, and civilians working for the agency may accrue up to 100 hours.

The auditor’s report said Dowdy is covered by MBN’s civilian rules on comp time. It said the unauthorized payments to Dowdy were $12,074 for 200 comp hours during the state budget year that ended June 30, 2017, and $15,588 for 400 comp hours the next year.

The report said Fisher authorized one buyout of up to 50 hours of comp time for Dowdy, and Dowdy was paid for that.

“This approval verifies that the executive director was aware approval for buyouts should be made by the commissioner and that he circumvented controls and policy in order to receive the other unauthorized buyouts,” the audit report said.

Dowdy wrote in a response to the report that comp time buyouts were offered and given throughout MBN.

The report said Dowdy improperly used a clothing allowance that is only for law enforcement officers employed by MBN. The report recommends that Dowdy repay the agency $2,450.

The question about whether Dowdy is a law enforcement officer is a pocketbook issue. The auditor’s office said that if Dowdy is law enforcement, he should have earned certification of that status by November 2017, a year after going to work for MBN.

Without that certification, the auditor said, the state would be prohibited from paying Dowdy. The auditor said if MBN declares that Dowdy has been a law enforcement officer since he started at agency, the public safety commissioner would have to repay the state about $313,000 it has paid for Dowdy’s salary, expenses and benefits since November 2017.

“It is correct that obtaining a professional certificate from the Board of Minimum Standards and Training is one way to become a sworn officer, but it is not the only way, as legislative enactments create other avenues to obtain sworn status,” Dowdy wrote.

The auditor’s report recommended that MBN set tighter controls over spending.