State Watch

Lawyer blames Mississippi governor for firing amid probe of misspent welfare funds

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves speaks during a news conference, May 18, 2022, in Jackson, Miss. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

The attorney fired amid his investigation into misspent welfare funds in Mississippi accused Gov. Tate Reeves (R) of seeking to thwart the probe, which involved high-profile figures including former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre and former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R).

The Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) on Friday fired Brad Pigott, a former U.S. attorney who was hired to reclaim millions of dollars in misspent welfare funds, some $5 million of which went to build a collegiate volleyball stadium, according to Mississippi Today.

“I believe I was fired as a result of a pattern of orders from the Mississippi governor’s office concerning protecting an entity, called the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation, from any responsibility in this matter,” Pigott told the New York Times.

Pigott told Mississippi Today that MHDS did not give a reason for firing him, although officials explained it was not due to a lack of quality with his legal work.

“All I did, and I believe all that caused me to be terminated from representing the department or having anything to do with the litigation, was to try to get the truth about all of that,” the attorney told the news outlet.

“I am sure they can find a loyal Republican lawyer to do the work,” he added.

A spokeswoman for Reeves told the Times there were “many capable lawyers who can handle the work necessary to recover stolen TANF funds,” adding, “it was decided that a semiretired solo practitioner was not the right person to sign on for more work.”

MHDS Director Bob Anderson on Saturday claimed the firing was because Pigott did not notify them before he filed the subpoena against the USM Athletic Foundation for communications involving Favre and Bryant.

However, emails reviewed by Mississippi Today show Pigott sent them an email with the draft subpoena 10 days before filing it.

The missing welfare funds first came to light in 2020, when it was revealed the state misspent or stole more than $90 million from 2017 to 2019, during Bryant’s term as governor.

The volleyball scheme centers on nonprofit founder Nancy New, who pled guilty earlier this year to misspending millions in welfare money, including $5 million for the stadium on behalf of Favre, a former star at Southern Miss.

Pigott told Mississippi Today he was blocked by “political operatives” from including the volleyball stadium money in a complaint filed against 38 people in May seeking to recoup some $24 million in welfare money.

Favre also allegedly received more than $1 million in another welfare scheme in which he was paid for speeches he never gave. Favre has started repaying those funds back.

Pigott was hired last year to investigate the case.

Tags Bob Anderson Brad Pigott Brett Favre Brett Favre Mississippi Phil Bryant Phil Bryant Tate Reeves welfare funds

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