CANTON — Former Canton Municipal Utilities General Manager Kenny Wayne Jones plans to fight a demand from the State Auditor’s Office for over $78,000 after news broke on Tuesday that he was one of 13 cited for widespread misspending practices. 

“Former Canton Municipal Utilities Executive Director Kenneth Wayne Jones was issued a demand for $78,612.81, which includes an illegal severance settlement agreement paid by Canton Municipal Authority to Jones, a Samsung LED television, and an Amazon Fire TV Stick,” a release from the Auditor’s Office read.

“Severance pay for public officials is prohibited by Mississippi statutes and has been addressed by the Mississippi Attorney General multiple times. Both electronic items were purchased by Jones using a procurement card belonging to Canton Municipal Utilities during his employment and could not be located during a recent asset inventory.”

Jones questions how he can be the subject of a demand when he didn’t vote to spend the money and he had no fiduciary liability. 

“This was a process that was voted on by those who had the authority to do so at CMU,” he said Wednesday. “At no time was I terminated. They offered me a settlement and I just got my lawyer to negotiate what the settlement would be for a resignation separation.”

Jones said he isn’t the first general manager to receive a settlement resignation from CMU. 

“I don’t have bonded financial liability,” he said. “I didn’t vote to give myself anything.” 

Back in March, the Auditor’s Office issued demands to two current CMU commissioners and three former commissioners totaling nearly $100,000 for spending public money to pay personal legal bills. 

Jones said the demands were not made to the law firms that received the money, and only to the CMU commissioners. 

“They didn’t ask those lawyers that were paid to pay the money back,” he said. “There’s a whole lot of inconsistencies and I’m waiting to see if this is pursued. 

“My professional reputation has been tarnished behind all of this because there has been a lingering insinuation there were some improprieties,” he continued. “I haven’t done anything at any point.” 

The other 12 individuals named in Tuesday’s demand were either former or current CMU commissioners who allegedly voted to approve personal purchases on CMU procurement cards. 

“The purchases were approved from November 2015 until November 2017 and included alcohol and gift cards,” the release from the Auditor’s Office read. “One demand letter related to this case has not yet been delivered at this time.”

Those issued demands were: The late Charles Weems ($4,308), Cleotha Williams ($3,722.20), Cleveland Anderson ($3,671.15), LC Slaughter ($3,542.02), Charlie Morgan ($2,370.49), John Noble ($1,937.51), Silbrina Wright ($1,239.50), Robert Chinn ($983.57), Simon Collier ($458.94), Miriam Koury ($458.94) and Stacey Spencer ($394.67). 

"When this many people violate purchasing laws, you have an organization that needs to entirely rethink its practices,” State Auditor Shad White said. “Typically we do not have cause to issue this many demands to a single organization, but that is the case here. Ratepayers and others who put their faith in Canton Municipal Utilities need to be made whole, and the people receiving these demands are personally responsible for paying this money back.”