Mississippi drops lawyer to investigate welfare abuses

A former federal prosecutor investigating millions of ill-spent welfare dollars in Mississippi has been taken off the case by the state agency that hired him.

The state’s Department of Human Resources will find a new attorney to replace Brad Pigott, a former U.S. attorney hired about a year ago to help recover $77 million in social funds identified by the state auditor .

The decision to remove Pigott as lead counsel in the civil case was first reported by Mississippi Today, a nonprofit digital news operation that has extensively reported on the aid scandal. social. Pigott said he was fired about a week after filing a subpoena for University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation records.

Pigott was looking for records related to $5 million in welfare the college foundation received to build a volleyball stadium, and included communications between the foundation and former Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant.

“All I did, and I believe all that got me fired from representing the department or having anything to do with the litigation, was to try to get the truth out of everything. that,” Pigott told Mississippi Today.

Mississippi state auditor Shad White said the welfare fraud uncovered by his office amounts to the state’s biggest public corruption case in two decades. He criticized the decision to drop Pigott.

“Firing Pigott is a mistake,” White said on Twitter on Saturday. He added: “Pigott has worked well with my office, communicating with us regularly about the status of the case and how we might share information.”

Robert Anderson, executive director of the Department of Social Services, said in a statement that Pigott’s contract expires at the end of July and will not be renewed, media reported.

In a statement, Anderson said Pigott filed “a detailed subpoena” requesting records from the sports foundation “without any prior discussion” with social services officials.

“Lawyers represent clients, and MDHS is the client in this case,” Anderson said. “I hope I don’t need to explain that a lawyer must stay in close communication with his client at all times.”

Earlier this month, U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi, asked the Justice Department to investigate Bryant in the welfare fraud case.

The congressman’s request came after a defendant in the case said in a court document that she directed $1.1 million in welfare to former NFL star Brett Favre under the guidance of from Bryant. The former governor, a Republican, denied the charges.

The allegation was made by Nancy New, who pleaded guilty in April along with her son, Zachary New, to charges of embezzlement of public funds. The mother and son, who ran a nonprofit group and education business in Mississippi, agreed to testify against others.

Favre was not charged with any foul play and returned the money. He said he did not know the money he was receiving came from social funds and denied the auditor’s claims that he had been paid for events he did not attend.

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