Calls for Desoto council member to step down after her husband misused taxpayer money

There are calls for a Desoto council member to step down after an audit showed her husband misused thousands of dollars in taxpayer money.

A newly released audit revealed how much money auditors believe Jeremiah Quarles may have misappropriated while working for the city.

Since that news, people in Desoto are wondering how much his wife, Candice Quarles, knew and benefitted from the crime.

Results of the audit were supposed to be presented to the public at a town hall Thursday night, but it was canceled. The city has not said when that town hall will be rescheduled for.

The audit found thousands of dollars worth of questionable transactions made by the husband of one of the council members.

During a work session Tuesday night, Desoto City Council members were briefed on the results of a 19-page audit.

The forensic auditors were hired by the Desoto Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Board to look into financial dealings of its former CEO, Jeremiah Quarles.

They analyzed financial documents and computer hard drives.

“There were obviously some control weaknesses here,” said William Brown, with Nelson Forensic & Advisory Services.

Quarles served as CEO of the EDC from June 2013, until Oct. 2016, when he was asked to resign amid concerns over spending of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

“Which included travel, incidentals, and other things,” Brown added.

A grand jury indicted Quarles, and in April 2019, he pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor theft charge. He was ordered to pay $9,073.08 in restitution, along with two years of probation.

But auditors believe the cash value could be much higher, with 10 work trips that were unaccounted for.

“We calculated the value of those 28 days of leave would have been $13,084,” Brown said.

Quarles was also given a severance package when he parted ways with the EDC.

“The total benefits turned out to be about $110,000,” Brown added.

With a theft conviction, auditors suggested council consult outside attorneys to see if some of the taxpayer funds can be recouped.

Meanwhile, some residents have called on Quarles' wife - who is a Desoto council member, and who was present throughout Tuesday's meeting - to step down. They are concerned she benefitted from her husband's dealings.

Auditors said they found no evidence of that, and she was never charged with any wrongdoing.

“We observed no emails between Mr. and Mrs. Quarles regarding why we're here, the fraud allegations, all of that,” said Alan Nelson, with Nelson Forensic & Advisory Services.

Councilwoman Quarles has not given any indication that she will step down.