Civil demands issued in Holmes County school district audit
State Auditor Shad White has announced that former Holmes County Consolidated School District Superintendent James Henderson, former Chief Financial Officer Cheryl Peoples, and four former school board members (Anthony Anderson, Louise Winters, April Jones, and Elder Dean) were issued demand letters resulting from audit findings released in December 2020.
The demands are as followed:
- James Henderson – $90,677.18
- William Elder Dean Jr. – $13,523.89
- Cheryl Peoples – $46,937.68
- Louise Winters –$13,523.90
- April Jones – $13,523.89
- Anthony Anderson – $24,623.90
“I appreciate the joint efforts of both the audit team and the investigative team who worked on this case in my office,” said Auditor Shad White. “We are demanding this money back on behalf of the students and taxpayers of Holmes County who deserve to have their money spent in the way that the law requires.”
Notable findings from the audit that led to an investigation include:
- The district paid over $4,200 for a party to celebrate the passage of a bond issue Holmes County voters ultimately rejected. The event was described as a “parent’s night out” and “adults only,” and attendees were encouraged to bring “your preferred beverage.”
- The former superintendent was paid a $170,000 salary despite the school board only voting to pay him a $160,000 salary. The district also paid the former superintendent for relocation expenses in excess of the amount allowed by state law.
- Auditors identified payments made to companies owned by the former superintendent’s relatives. These purchases totaled $14,000.
- A district credit card was used without school board authorization. Auditors identified 22 purchases made with this card without appropriate documentation. These transactions totaled over $12,000.
A surety bond covers each individual. A surety bond is similar to insurance designed to protect taxpayers in the event that public money is misspent. Each individual will remain liable for the full amounts of their demands.
Suspected fraud can be reported to the Auditor’s office online at any time by clicking the red button at www.osa.ms.gov or via telephone during normal business hours at 1-(800)-321-1275.