State Auditor Shad White ordered Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Executive Director John Dowdy to pay back $30,122 to taxpayers over compensatory time buy-backs and a clothing allowance.

The auditor’s office issued the routine compliance audit Thursday and the crux of why Dowdy will have to pay back the money is whether he is a sworn law enforcement officer. The MBN says that because he was sworn in as director, he is able to enforce the state’s laws and carry a firearm. 

The auditor’s office says that he hasn’t met the certification standards granted by the Board of Law Enforcement Standards and Training to be considered a law enforcement officer. He never graduated from a law enforcement academy and was supposed to complete his certification a year from his hiring on November 1, 2016.

A formal finding by the MBN and the Department of Public Safety on Dowdy’s status is due a week from the audit and any amounts due to the state would have to be repaid in a week. If the MBN finds that Dowdy is not a sworn law enforcement officer, the DPS will have to reimburse the state for $313,261 for employing the director after he failed to receive certification. 

Dowdy ordered his staff to buy compensatory time on five separate occasions. This is paid time off earned for working past traditional work areas. Agencies are allowed to pay employees for compensatory time in lieu of time off from work.

Sworn law enforcement officers are allowed up to 300 hours, according to DPS regulations, of compensatory time, while other, regular employees are limited to 100 hours. Dowdy, from May 31, 2017 until December 14, 2018, accrued 529 hours of leave, 129 hours more than the standard of a law enforcement officer and 429 more than those for regular employees.

According to state law, the public safety commissioner (MBN is a branch of the DPS which includes the state’s crime lab and state trooper force) has to authorize the buy backs and only one of those times did Public Safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher provide permission via a memo. 

The buybacks added up to $27,662 and were done over the objections of several on the MBN staff. 

Dowdy also spent $2,450 in state funds on clothing, which was against the law according to the audit since he isn’t a certified law enforcement officer. Law enforcement officers are authorized a clothing allowance by state law.

Dowdy’s spending included:

  • $1,244 for polo shirts, pants, sport coats, ties, and other items.
  • $1,011 for boots and belts.
  • $195 for Cole Haan shoes. 

The auditor’s office also chastised the department for its accounting practices, reporting that MBN didn’t perform a proper monthly reconciliation for the nine bank accounts the agency holds outside of the state treasury. 

Also, the department bought higher-grade gasoline on 10 percent of purchases, which goes against state regulations, which only allows regular unleaded or diesel fuel to be bought with the state Fuelman credit cards.

Five MBN employees were allowed to use agency vehicles for commuting, including Dowdy and the department didn’t record fringe benefits for the employees. This added up to $3,720 in fringe benefits in 2018.

The audit isn’t the only controversy weathered by the agency in recent months.

Former MBN chief of staff and counsel Allison Killebrew resigned on October 8. In her resignation letter, she said “I lost in faith in your (Dowdy’s) ability to do the right thing for the employees of MBN and the state of Mississippi many months ago.”