SOUTHAVEN — A north Mississippi mayor under scrutiny for alleged questionable spending of city money says he’s being persecuted.
Southaven Mayor Greg Davis testified yesterday in Hinds County Chancery Court, trying to convince a judge to block Mississippi Auditor Stacey Pickering from garnishing his paycheck.
Judge Dewayne Thomas issued a temporary restraining order last week that prevents the auditor’s office from garnishing the check. He held a hearing on the matter yesterday, but said he would rule later.
Davis has been under scrutiny since November when Pickering told him to repay about $170,000 — including billings from a Canadian sex shop.
The amount was later reduced, and Davis has paid some back. Pickering is still trying to get about $73,000.
Davis has not been charged with a crime though the FBI said in December that it had opened an investigation.
During a testy exchange during his testimony, Davis complained the auditor’s office has not provided him with a detailed report on its audit and so he doesn’t know which billings are still being questioned.
The auditor’s lawyer, Melissa Patterson, told Davis it was an investigation, not an audit. Davis responded that he thought people under prosecution were provided with the evidence against them. That process is called discovery, but Davis has not been charged with a crime, although the FBI confirmed Dec. 7 that it had opened a criminal investigation.
“Are you being prosecuted?” Patterson asked.
“Persecuted, let me use that word,” Davis retorted.
Pickering’s office has questioned billings that included travel, stress counseling and food and liquor, as well as one bill for $67 at Priape in Toronto, which describes itself as “Canada’s premiere gay lifestyle store and sex shop.”
Davis is a Republican who ran for Congress in 2008 on a conservative platform. After news of the spending probe, Davis said he was gay and that he and his wife had divorced.
Some of the money Davis was ordered to repay went to counseling for him and his family, according to auditors.
Officials of Southaven have called for his resignation but don’t have the power to force him from office.
Davis is in his fourth term as mayor. Southaven, a Memphis, Tenn., suburb of about 49,000 people, has grown rapidly in recent years to become one of Mississippi’s largest cities.