Paul Cannette Credit: Sun Herald file photo

The former Biloxi School District police chief was arrested by the state auditor’s office Tuesday on a charge of embezzling more than $150,000 from a school resource organization.

In a release, the Mississippi State Auditor’s office said Paul Gordon Cannette was arrested Tuesday for embezzling money from the Mississippi Association of School Resource Officers (MARSO).

Cannette was the police chief of Biloxi Public Schools and also served as president and treasurer of the school resource officer organization, according to the auditor’s release.

Biloxi School District spokesperson Jennifer Pyron said Cannette was a district employee from December 2006 to October 2017, when he retired.

“The District is aware of an ongoing investigation of one of our former employees by the State Auditor’s office,” Pyron said in an email.  “We are absolutely certain that this matter in no way relates to Biloxi School District funds.”

According to documentation the auditor’s office served Cannette on Nov. 14, he embezzled $169,865.60 from the organization between April 2013 and November 2016.

The Mississippi Association of School Resource Officers, which Cannette allegedly embezzled from, receives grant money from the Mississippi Department of Education. Jean Cook, a spokeswoman for the department, said it does not comment on pending investigations.

The state auditor’s office is demanding he pay $244,819.78 to cover the amount embezzled, interest, and recovery costs.

Logan Reeves, a spokesman for the state auditor’s office said the investigation was triggered by a complaint alleging misuse of public funds. He noted that special agents for the state auditor’s office make arrests fairly frequently.

“This is another instance of an individual violating the trust of a community by embezzlement. This offence is a particularly egregious because the stolen funds should have gone toward providing safety to our schoolchildren,” State Auditor Stacey Pickering said. “My office will continue the fight to recover misspent and, in this case, stolen money on behalf of Mississippi taxpayers.”

Cannette was jailed on a $50,000 bond. There is no listing for MARSO on the Secretary of State’s website listing of registered nonprofit organizations in Mississippi.

Kayleigh Skinner joined the Mississippi Today team in January 2017 as an education and legislative reporter and advanced to a senior staff member in her four years with the company. Skinner most recently served as deputy managing editor before assuming the role of managing editor. Kayleigh has a bachelor’s in journalism from the School of Journalism and New Media from the University of Mississippi. Before joining Mississippi Today, Kayleigh worked at The Hechinger Report, Chalkbeat Tennessee, and The Commercial Appeal. She has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, and BBC Newsday Radio to discuss her reporting.

Kelsey Davis Betz is from Mobile, Ala., and currently lives in Cleveland, where she works as one of our Mississippi Delta-based reporters covering education and intersecting issues. Kelsey has a dual degree in journalism and Spanish from Auburn University and worked as an editorial intern at Texas Monthly and a courts reporter at the Montgomery Advertiser. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report and is a co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.