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Bryant considers demand for airport probe expenses

By Staff
ROTARY REMARKS – State Auditor Phil Bryant, left, talks with Rotarians Donnie Smith and C.D. Smith moments after Monday's Rotary Club meeting. Photo by William F. West/The Meridian Star
By William F. West / community editor
Aug. 13, 2002
State Auditor Phil Bryant said Monday he is talking with the state Attorney General's Office about demanding a former Meridian airport executive reimburse expenses for his embezzlement investigation.
In June, Mark Cowart, former vice president of the Meridian Airport Authority, received a three-year suspended sentence after he confessed to embezzling from December 2000 to February 2001.
Cowart told authorities that he stole $750 in parking fees from the airport's "honesty boxes." His confession came after he paid back $5,000 before the attorney general's involvement in the probe.
If a decision is made to demand compensation for investigative costs, Bryant said, then the request would be issued on Cowart or his bonding company.
In another local case, Bryant still has a demand letter out that calls for former Meridian Police Department clerk Vivian Groves to pay more than $5,000.
Groves admitted in July she had stolen from the police station's front desk from February 2001 to May 2001. She was fired.
Groves claimed she had an accomplice. The alleged accomplice was not arrested or indicted, but was also fired.
Bryant said that his office intends to collect $5,097.34 from Groves, including $1,648 in investigative costs.
Bryant declined to comment about the status of Weems Community Mental Health Center, which came under scrutiny after its executive director, Emry Kennedy, was suspended in May and state audit investigators were called in.
In his speech to the Rotary Club, Bryant said his style of leadership is low-key.
He said his office will make such a public move when he and his staff believes the evidence is "beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual that is the target of the investigation is in fact guilty."
Bryant said he won't walk suspects handcuffed across a room full of cameras to show his office has obtained an arrest actions that make people believe all government officials are corrupt.