The Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) has begun a civil lawsuit seeking to return about $24 million of misspent Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds back to the state. Now, the attorney who was hired as a legal counsel for MDHS in the matter is no longer part of that effort.
Brad Piggot, a former U.S. Attorney, claims his departure is politically motivated because he requested a subpoena for communications between the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation and former Gov. Phil Bryant about funds for a volleyball building.
MDHS officials say Piggot’s one-year contract expired at the end of the month and is not being renewed and the decision to seek a subpoena was done without knowledge and consent of the department.
Piggot and the State Attorney General’s office were part of the civil side of the effort to get back the millions of dollars in question to the state. There is also a separate criminal case that is ongoing.
Now some, including Piggot, say the MDHS decision is politically motivated and are calling it a “firing,” while others say the department was within their right to terminate a contract at the end of the contract.
Talking to reporters this week at the Neshoba County Fair, Gov. Tate Reeves expressed that Piggot was more interested in himself over what was best for the state.
The department now is expected to name another attorney at some point to continue the probe with the Attorney General’s office.
In Horn Lake Saturday, Attorney General Lynn Fitch would not comment on the issue.
“It’s a pending investigation so I can’t get into very much commentary in that regard,” Fitch said. “And the contract ended at the end of the month.”
Democratic U.S. Congressional candidate Dianne Dodson-Black of Olive Branch has voiced an opinion, however, siding with the belief the issue is political and that Piggot was fired.
“The firing of Pigott is politically motivated, a blatant and emboldened attempt to weaken the lawsuit that will bring those responsible to justice,” Dodson-Black said in a statement. “I am hopeful that the recent filing of a subpoena on former Gov. Bryant for documents related to the misuse of welfare funds will help to bring this scandal to the public eye and those responsible to justice.”
Some lawmakers have said they would like the legislature to investigate to reveal more about the issue.