By JACK ELLIOTT JR.
JACKSON, Miss. – The Southaven Board of Aldermen voted 6-1 Friday to ask gay Mayor Greg Davis to resign amid allegations he misspent about $170,000 in city funds.
Attorney Steve Farese, who represents Davis, would not comment on whether Davis would resign. He said in a statement that the mayor is taking personal time for medical treatment and he expects Davis to be released from treatment in 30 to 60 days. He would not say where Davis is being treated or the nature of his illness.
Davis has come under increasing scrutiny since November when Mississippi Auditor Stacey Pickering told him to pay back the allegedly improper billings. They included travel, stress counseling, food and liquor. The auditor’s office has said one such bill was for $67 at a gay sex shop in Canada.
Davis is a Republican who ran for Congress in 2008 on a conservative platform. After news of the spending was revealed, he admitted 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.
The resolution cited the $170,000 repayment demand by state auditors and said Davis had misled and lied to aldermen about it.
“Most of you have voted time and time again for Greg Davis- I have- because you trusted him,” Alderman Greg Guy said. “We did the same thing … we trusted him. He has some down some wonderful things for the city. The way the money has been spent is not the way the money was designed to be spent.”
Alderman Randall Huling voted against it, saying no state law supported what aldermen were about to do. He said aldermen have no way to force Davis from office. And without such authority, Huling said, the resolution was just a media show. Huling said aldermen could have been more successful had they talked privately with Davis.
The board heard from local residents, many of whom chastised them for wasting time on the resolution when the city needed to be run or for not taking action sooner.
Guy said the board never got itemized reports on spending by Davis although it will in the future.
Southaven resident J.M. Sparkman said the aldermen individually and as a whole should have stood up and questioned Davis’ actions.
“If you can’t go over his receipts, take his credit card away from him,” Sparkman said.
When the Mississippi auditor’s office ordered Davis to pay back the money in November 2011, the agency said it had been investigating his expenses for seven months. He was told to repay $153,589 for expenses, $16,822 for interest and $13,571 for investigative costs. The FBI is now investigating.
Davis is in his fourth term as mayor of the suburb of Memphis, Tenn., that has grown rapidly in recent years to become Mississippi’s third-largest city, after Jackson and Gulfport. Southaven’s 2010 population was 48,982. Davis served in the state House before he was elected mayor and ran unsuccessfully for north Mississippi’s 1st District congressional seat in 2008. As a legislator and a congressional candidate, he talked frequently about being a fiscal conservative.
If Davis resigns, the mayor pro tem would take over until a special election could be held. State law requires that to take place in 45 days.