A former assistant to Prichard Mayor Jimmy Gardner was arrested today on 17 counts of theft.

James Antuan Blackman was taken into custody at the office of Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich and will be transported to Mobile Metro Jail, according to a statement.

Gardner announced Blackman’s termination earlier this month after “irregularities” were found during an audit of city finances.

James A. Blackmon was terminated as the Chief of Staff to Prichard Mayor Jimmie Gardner after an internal audit discovered financial “irregularities.” (thecityofprichard.org)

According to Gardner, Blackman worked for the city of Prichard for a little more than a year before he was suspended without pay on Wednesday, Jan. 10. He said Blackmon was ultimately terminated the following day via a letter from Prichard Police Chief Walter Knight.

Gardner declined to answer questions about whether other employees could be implicated along with Blackmon in addition to other rumors about his termination. Asked about the amount of public funds that could be amiss, Gardner said only that “it could be in the thousands.”

According to the city of Prichard’s website, Blackmon was the “Chief of Staff” in Gardner’s administration, though the mayor exclusively identified him as his “administrative executive assistant” during a press conference announcing the firing.

In a statement, Gardner wrote that the trust of the city’s residents was “eroded” by an employee of his office.

“When the alleged act of theft was discovered, it was reported immediately to the appropriate authorities,” he wrote. “An arrest has been made and the process must be allowed to go its full course. I ask that you pray for our city, Mr. James Blackman and all those affected by this horrific event.”