By NATHAN GREGORY
The Mississippi Office of the State Auditor is investigating the Starkville Housing Authority to determine whether the local organization’s use of a van to transport voters to polling places Tuesday was improper.
MOSA Investigative Division Deputy Director Earl Smith said the agency is analyzing the matter but has not determined its legality.
“We’re looking into it. We don’t know whether it’s illegal or not,” Smith said. “I got a call that people were being transported to polling places in the Housing Authority van. We’re looking to make sure that’s OK.”
Smith would not comment on a report that State Auditor spokesperson Lisa Shoemaker said the act was illegal. Shoemaker could not be reached as of press time.
Oktibbeha County Circuit Clerk Glenn Hamilton said he was made aware by a MOSA official that a complaint was made by an unidentified individual at a precinct but did not see an SHA van at any of the precincts he visited Tuesday.
“The State Auditor’s office called me and asked me if I had any complaints and I told them I had not had any. They indicated they received … a complaint that (SHA was) transporting voters to the National Guard Armory,” Hamilton said. “I told them I had not seen one of their vans at any of the precincts I went to.”
SHA director Rebecca Carlisle confirmed MOSA investigators came to the organization Tuesday and asked her questions about the van and what she was doing.
“I told them we were helping people. That’s what the Housing Authority does anyway,” Carlisle said. “We helped people who were elderly and disabled go to the poll and exercise their constitutional right to vote. I just thought it would be a good thing to do, that it would be a good deed and I ended up in hot water.”
Carlisle said the van was used to take 10 to 15 people to vote and didn’t know it was possible that such an act might be improper.
“I think it’s been blown out of proportion,” she said.