This editorial appeared in The Biloxi Sun Herald.
Federal charges claiming that Gulfport's mayor fraudulently obtained a post-Katrina housing grant are not an indictment of the city's progress and must not be allowed to slow its momentum toward recovery.
On Wednesday, Mayor Brent Warr and his wife Laura were indicted on 16 counts, centering on charges that they made false statements to obtain a total of $222,798 in federal Katrina relief and insurance funds. Both have pleaded innocent to the charges, and the mayor has pledged to continue his commitment to the city's operation and recovery.
A first-time elected official, Warr has carried a heavy load from the start. Eight weeks after he took office, Hurricane Katrina swept much of his city off the map. The federal investigation leading to Wednesday's indictments, and the rumors that always accompany such things, have been ongoing for a year. Still, the city has moved forward.
The indictments and trial will surely impact the up-coming municipal election. It is not for us to speculate on the federal trial's timing or its outcome. We can say with certainty, however, that it would be most regrettable if these charges interfere with the city's recovery. City leaders and the people of Gulfport must work together to make sure that does not happen.
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