Waveland mayor charged with embezzlement

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 23, 2010

JACKSON (AP) — The mayor of a coastal Mississippi town still recovering from Hurricane Katrina was charged Friday with embezzlement for allegedly using city funds to buy gasoline for his personal car.

Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo, a 51-year-old Democrat in his third term, is accused of using a Fuelman credit card to purchase $1,116 in gasoline for his private vehicle between September 2008 and August 2009, said Lisa H. Shoemaker, a spokeswoman for the Mississippi State Auditor’s office.

The mayor’s office referred calls to city attorney Zack Butterworth, who wasn’t immediately available.

The charges don’t appear to be related to the millions of dollars that have poured into the coastal town since it was nearly completely destroyed by the August 2005 storm. The town, not far from the Louisiana line, was one of the hardest hit areas on Gulf Coast.

Waveland Alderwoman Lily Stahler said the details of the allegations were just emerging Friday and she wasn’t sure what city officials would do, if anything at this point. The accusation itself may not be cause for removal from office, she said.

A felony conviction under Mississippi law, however, would force Longo from office.

‘‘Although this embezzlement is not a large sum of money, I am committed to holding any government employee accountable to the taxpayers of Mississippi for embezzlement and fraud,’’ State Auditor Stacey Pickering said in a statement.

‘‘An elected official must be held to the highest standard and using government funds for personal use will not be tolerated,’’ Pickering said.

Longo was last elected in 2006, winning nearly 58 percent of the vote over a Republican and independent candidates.

He’s the second mayor from a coastal Mississippi town to be charged with a crime since Katrina.

Brent Warr, the former Republican mayor of nearby Gulfport, was sentenced to probation in September on federal Katrina fraud charges.

Warr pleaded guilty to one felony count for receiving disaster money that the Federal Emergency Management Agency said he wasn’t entitled to. Warr, who was the highest ranking public official accused of defrauding the government after the 2005 storm, didn’t seek re-election after his first term.