Our Opinion: MBN director should pay up

By EDITORIAL STAFF,

Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Director John Dowdy should pay back the $30,000 the state auditor says Dowdy owes for improper payments he received.

Otherwise, Dowdy risks putting his boss on the hook for 10 times that much money.

Dowdy got his hand called by State Auditor Shad White, who says that Dowdy improperly enriched himself mostly by directing subordinates to pay him for compensatory time to which Dowdy was not entitled.

The Department of Public Safety, under which MBN falls, has special pay rules authorized by the Legislature. It is allowed to buy back from its employees, most of whom are law enforcement officers, compensatory time they have accrued when they have to put in more than 40 hours in a week. Such buybacks, according to the state auditor, have to be authorized by the commissioner of public safety. Even still, MBN’s rules limit the potential buybacks by capping compensatory time at 300 hours for law enforcement agents and 100 hours for civilians.

According to the state auditor, Dowdy tripped up on all of these rules. To wit:

nHe didn’t get approval from Public Safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher for most of the comp-time payments Dowdy was paid.

nHe accrued more comp time than allowed.

nHe applied to himself the more generous provisions provided by law enforcement agents, even though he was not one.

Dowdy, of course, doesn’t agree with the findings. He says he is a law enforcement agent. If so, that might get him off the hook but puts Fisher on it. That’s because Dowdy, within one year of his hire, did not go through the certification process required of law enforcement officers in Mississippi.

State law says that any money paid law enforcement officers who don’t get certified within a year of hire has to be paid back by the person employing them. According to the state auditor, the potential liability for Fisher is $313,000.

Dowdy should stop arguing, pony up the $30,000 and be thankful he qualifies for even 100 hours of extra pay. Most managers in the private sector don’t get anything extra for working extra hours. It’s expected by their employers, condoned by the wage-and-hour laws and reflected in their salaries.