Mayor Johnny Dupree is putting his purchasing clerk, Verlina Underwood up for the position of Hattiesburg Municipal City Clerk. According to her resume, she wants a position that is challenging and will “in courage” her to always aim high. This isn’t encouraging for the citizens of Hattiesburg.
Courage may be what Underwood needs moving forward in city government, as the Mississippi State Auditor has seized records from her department pertaining to several companies involved in possible bid rigging and kick back schemes. (Read that story by clicking here) The city, through the purchasing department, spent many thousands of dollars on general supplies with a company named Alliance Sales, and the city also had dealings with Century Management and Mike Miller Construction. Owners of these companies have plead guilty to defrauding the federal government in other schemes.
Alliance Sales supplied the city with everything from cleaning products to paper products and was owned by the wife of Thomas Pittman, Cyndi Pittman and a Cynthia Cooley. The Registered Agent on the LLC is Thomas Pittman. Thomas Pittman, his son Tim Pittman, and Mike Miller have all plead guilty to defrauding the federal government with bid rigging and kick back schemes involving Century Management. Those guilty pleas have been posted the Hattiesburg Patriot’s Facebook Page. Cooley is presently in her 3rd year of an 89 month federal prison sentence for aggravated identity theft and credit card fraud, related to a 2012 conviction, where she stole over $500,000 from Thomas Pittman and his companies.
Miller allegedly created fake companies to bid against himself with city projects. One of the alleged fake companies was Cantrell Construction. The projects, all below $50,000, are not required to be put out for public bidding. Miller would then be awarded the jobs as the lowest estimate. These bids were overseen by the purchasing department, and under the leadership of Verlina Underwood. Underwood’s department never caught (or never alerted) authorities that fake, unlicensed companies were bidding on City projects and supply contracts. Now, Mayor Johnny Dupree wants to promote Underwood to Municipal City Clerk. That definitely takes courage.