The mayor of the fourth-largest city in Mississippi has been forced to come out of the closet after the receipts from his expenses claim included a visit to a gay “lifestyle store and sex shop”.

Greg Davis, mayor of Southaven, who was divorced from his wife last year, had been subject to a criminal investigation for allegedly misusing $170,000 when receipts revealed he spent $67 at a gay shop in Toronto, Canada.

Davis, who has three daughters from his marriage and ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2008 promoting “family values”, also spent thousands of dollars at local liquor shops.

Davis told the Commercial Appeal: “At this point in my life and in my career, while I have tried to maintain separation between my personal and public life, it is obvious that this can no longer remain the case.

“While I have performed my job as mayor, in my opinion, as a very conservative, progressive individual – and still continue to be a very conservative individual – I think that it is important that I discuss the struggles I have had over the last few years when I came to the realization that I am gay.

“The only apology I would make to my supporters if they are upset is the fact that I was not honest enough with myself to be honest with them. But I have lived my life in public service for 20-plus years, and in order for me to remain sane and move on, I have got to start being honest about who I am.”

R Clarke Cooper of the gay Log Cabin Republicans group, told CA: “What would be helpful to the mayor is if the community recognizes that he is still the same person. This is a part of who he is that people just didn’t know.”