City council approves investigations into misappropriated COVID money, JMAA airport board

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Jackson’s city council will soon begin investigating how more than a million in federal tax dollars got misappropriated by a former city employee and issues at Jackson’s airport board first highlighted by 3 On Your Side.

Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes said he still has questions more than a year after the city terminated Constituent Services Manager Keyshia Sanders for her role in making sure more than a million in federal tax dollars went to a Florence company for COVID-19 cleaning services.

A 3 On Your Side investigation in September 2021 revealed the city council approved every payment to that company — L&N Enterprises — over nine months with few questions.

At the time, Stokes was the only council member who asked anything about how the money was being spent.

“You heard that the [district attorney]’s office had it. Now, today, they’re saying that the auditor’s office,” Stokes said. “You’re hearing all these things, but we’re not seeing in action. And what we don’t want is one day they come up and say, ‘Okay, city council. You owe a million dollars.’ ‘Why?’ And they gonna say you voted for this. ‘We didn’t put it on the agenda.’ ‘But you voted.’ And that’s why we got to get to the bottom. Who did what, who owes who?”

Every time a payment to the company went before the council, minutes show Sanders was the one who pushed the item through.

Sanders has not yet been charged.

“You can’t have an item on the agenda that’s illegal,” Stokes said. “If these items were on this agenda illegally, and voted on by the city council, then somebody should be held liable.”

Council members also approved another investigation Tuesday into the Jackson Municipal Airport Authority board.

It comes weeks after a 3 On Your Side investigation found evidence one commissioner — Robert Martin — had never lived in the city despite being required to do so.

Martin resigned after we sent what we found to the city attorney’s office..

Stokes wants to know if Martin’s votes on that board were legal because he was in violation of city ordinance the whole time he served, an ordinance that states board members are removed if they do not live in Jackson.

“You already have concrete evidence with a gentleman on the authority who didn’t live at his residence, Mr. Martin. And so there’s questions about other folks on that authority who might not live in their residency,” Stokes said. “So if you know you’re violating the law, what was your overall goal? Were you voting on things to help people, certain people?”

Both orders to begin investigations passed unanimously.

Ward 5 Councilman Vernon Hartley, a former airport commissioner himself, said he feels good about recent commissioners who’ve joined the board in the last few months.

“We as a council, we want to get a firm accounting of what’s been going on. Again, it was on our watch. And we need to make sure that, that someone says, you know, this thing wasn’t done in a corner,” Hartley said. “We need to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

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