Thursday, June 10, 2021

A.G. Still Protects Canton Corruption

 Attorney General Lynn Fitch assumed her office nearly a year and a half ago yet she has still not sued to recover $101,829 from Canton Municipal Utilities former employees and commissioners.  State Auditor Shad White issued several demands to repay the funds for an improper severance payment and credit card payments. 

 JJ broke the news of the illegal settlement payment.  JJ submitted a public records request for a copy of the settlement agreement and settlement payment but CMU denied the request.  CMU attorney Ed Blackmon said the requested documents were personnel records and thus exempted from the Public Records Act. However, the Ethics Commission, Attorney General, and a Hinds County Chancery Court have all ruled settlement agreements with government bodies are public record. CMU provided the records a few days after receiving service of the lawsuit.

CMU paid Mr. Jones $75,000 even though he never sued CMU nor filed a grievance after the Board terminated his position as Executive Director. State law prohibits severance payment to government employees.  Earlier post. 

 State Auditor Shad White took the ball and ran with it.  He issued a demand against former Canton Municipal Utilities Executive Director Kenneth Wayne Jones for $78,612.81, which includes an illegal severance settlement agreement paid by Canton Municipal Authority to Jones. 

 The State Auditor can issued demands to repay public funds to public officials.  However, the Attorney General is tasked with taking legal action to recover the funds.  It is no surprise Attorney General Jim Hood took no action against Mr. Jones or any other CMU cronies as CMU has been a Blackmon playground for quite some time.  Unfortunately, General Fitch copied the Jim Hood playbook while the State Auditor's demand letters collect dust on her desk.

Unfortunately, the demand issued against Mr. Jones is not the only one State Auditor in timeout over at the Attorney General's day care center.  

JJ reported on January 30, 2018: 

 This edition of As CMU Turns began in 2013 when Canton Alderman Les Penn moved at a Board of Aldermen meeting to remove CMU Commissioners Landers Cheeks,  Cleotha Williams, Shoney Harris, and L.C. Slaughter.  The fired Commissioners sued the city of Canton in Madison County Circuit Court and lost.  Judge William Chapman ruled in 2015 that the removal was not arbitrary and capricious but was supported by evidence that the Aldermen had legitimate concerns about the operation of the public utility.

Cheeks and his merry band of rejects also sued for an injunction in Madison County Circuit Court in a separate lawsuit.  The court denied the petition for an injunction.  The losers didn't take no for an answer but appealed to the Court of Appeals, lost, and appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court where they lost again. 

Attorneys Ellis Turnage and Adrienne Wooten represented the deposed Commissioners in the first lawsuit.   Ed Blackmon and Ellis Turnage represented the plaintiffs in the petition for the injunction.  Adrienne Wooten represented Landres Cheeks as well.   They lost every round in court.

However, the CMU board approved paying the legal fees of these commissioners even though CMU was not a party to the lawsuits and the commissioners were private citizens when the lawsuits were filed.  The judge did not award attorney's fees to the plaintiffs since they lost.  However, the CMU Board of Commissioners voted to pay the claims docket at the March 7, 2017 and March 21 meetings that included payments of  $85,662 to attorneys Ellis Turnage, Adrienne Wooten, and Tamekia Goliday.*  CMU issued the checks on the same day as the approval of the claims docket.   Ms. Wooten and Ms. Goliday submitted invoices for work performed in 2013.  Mr. Turnage billed for work from 2013 to 2015.  It should be noted that Commissioners Slaughter and Williams voted on paying the claims docket even though it included payments to their personal attorneys who represented them in the Canton lawsuits.  However, this is Canton where laws and ethics are suspended.  

The invoices state that most of the billed work was performed in 2013.  Ms. Wooten's invoice that her work was last performed on July 31, 2013 while Ms. Goliday's invoice states was last performed on July 12, 2013.  Mr. Turnage billed for 231 hours but 97 hours were billed after March 7, 2014 so the payment for those hours fell within the three-year statute of limitations although 134 hours were billed after the statute of limitations expired.

*Here are the invoiced amounts:

Wooten: $11,550
Goliday: $4,120
Turnage: $69,992

 Then-State Auditor Stacey Pickering stated in a March 8, 2018 press release: 

Today, OSA Special Agents presented civil demands to five current members of the Canton Municipal Utilities Board of Commissioners. Cleotha Williams, Charles Weems, L.C. Slaughter, Charles Morgan, and Cleveland Anderson were all served demands of $19,192.77, each. The total amount for the demands against the commissioners is $95,963.85, which includes principle, interest, and investigative costs.

The demands are related to Canton Municipal Utilities commissioners spending public funds to pay personal legal fees during a time they were not serving on the Canton Municipal Utilities Board of Commissioners.

The case will be delivered to the Attorney General of Mississippi for civil suit if the subjects of the demand do not respond within thirty days.  Earlier post.

The Attorney General has not sued any of the attorneys or former Commissioners to repay the funds.

Kingfish note: How many public corruption cases as the Attorney General prosecuted since she assumed office?  Has she filed any clawback lawsuits in the DHS scandal? This website is going to re-publish this post every so often until General Fitch actually prosecutes theses cases.  



Anonymous said...

Don't hold your breath, Kingfish. She's busy distributing facemasks and cooking up lawsuits on the federal level. She doesn't have time to take care of this petty stuff.

Anonymous said...

What about the non existent “tornado insurance”?

Is Lynn Skeered Of The Blackmon Twins? said...

Canton Municipal and Madison County Board have been the most corrupt two bodies in this state for at least 30 years. Is it coincidence that both are housed in the same town? But, enough about where they're HOUSED. Let's talk about who's getting HOSED!

Anonymous said...

And all the while Shad White has not yet taken action against Brett Favre to repay the welfare money he received. It’s politically easy for Shad to go after an entity in a Democrat controlled area like Canton. But when it’s a Republican booster like Brett then Shad gets soft.

Anonymous said...

I supported Lynn in her campaign for AG thinking she would be a go-getter against wrongdoers. Man, was I wrong. She better step up and prosecute these thieves before the next election or she can say bye-bye.

Anonymous said...

Credit card charges and actual billing can be a lot different. For many years I had a department issued credit card that I could use as long as I paid what I was responsible for at the end of each month. Look deeper and you will find out that their is no case.

Anonymous said...

Do not mistake the AG's office for the office of U.S. Attorney. One is mostly politics, the other is ALL politics. Guess which is which. Lynn must weigh what SHE has to gain. Weighing is a slow process.

Kingfish said...

Why don't you read the actual posts.

Three demands were made.

1. Kenny Wayne's severance pay.
2. Attorney's fees paid for commissioners
3. Credit cards.

As for the credit cards, the bills were paid over a period of time.

Anonymous said...

Mississippi has an attorney general?


9:30 - Whether or not YOU had a department issued card is totally irrelevant. It's my understanding that government (state, county, municipal) issued cards in this state can be used only for approved use within the scope of one's duties and must be subjected to internal audit review prior to payment being approved and issued. This does NOT allow one to rack up personal charges and pay them off later, perhaps at one's leisure. That would amount, in effect, to interest free loans to employees. The same is true of gas cards.

I may be wrong, but it's my understanding that one or more Canton departments were also purchasing gift cards using city credit cards and there was no acceptable tracking mechanism as to their intended or actual end user issuance.

Hut Hut said...

There's that same cackler whining about Brett Favre. You have zero knowledge of the facts, only what you read on facebook or some incomplete news article. You're a fool if you think Favre does not have legal counsel. There's also been no proof presented that he did not represent that enterprise in appearances or commercials. He should not have paid the first dime.

Anonymous said...

If you think things are bad now, just imagine Chip Matthews being elected as mayor.

Anonymous said...

hmmm...and Kenny Wayne is now county administrator for Hinds County. What could possibly go wrong????

Anonymous said...

@9:30 That might be fine with a private business. But a government should never operate that way. My goodness, who would think that would be acceptable?

Imagine using your government issued city of Jackson Mastercard to pay for a personal trip to Disney World, then thinking it is okay because you "paid for what you were responsible for at the end of the month."

Anonymous said...

Her campaign signs say she was "For Mississippi". Doesn't say she was "For Canton". She's a do nothing empty suit.

Anonymous said...

There may be a more prosaic reason the attorney general has not proceeded. She may not have any attorneys who can handle the suit. Keep in mind that she cleaned house when she came into office. Those she did not fire soon left. As a result, she has many young, inexperienced attorneys on staff.. In Cctober the abortion case will be argyed. This is a very important case. If Lynn Fitch's stafff can't file suits to recover public money, what business do they have in srguing this case? The attorney who argued a case last year left the AG and works with Capital Defense. Lynn Fitch is only about looking good. She wants to be govenor. The actual work of the AG's office does not interest her

Anonymous said...

Unsurprising to anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes around Lynn. Mike Hurst is a camera-loving climber, but let's hope he primaries Lynn and wins so we can have an AG actually interested in (and capable of) doing something.

Can’t fool me said...

Speaking of the AG, saw her on the news last night. Spring break was good to her. Looking so refreshed.

SMTTBottom, but still said...

9:16 - there is no claim against Brett Farve. And actually - he did no wrong. The fact that TANF monies were used to hire him to do events and that is a misuse of the TANF dollars is the fault of New and Davis Those that approved the spending. Farve was hired to do what ex-athletes do, make appearances. He nor his agent is responsible for determining if the funds used to pay him allow that kind of use.

The fact that Farve voluntarily offered to give back the money was a good move - not legally binding, and not required by any law, statute, rule or anything other than social media idiots that want to think they know what's going on because they heard about it on a podcast or a blog.

Favre For The Win said...

But we'll still have to put up with that ignorant chirper with his fabricated 'what abouts' for the next ten months.

Anonymous said...

The past couple years have been interesting. I voted for Lynn anticipating great things and voted for Tate expecting a disaster. Quite the opposite has happened. Tate (while not perfect) has actually surprised me and been an effective governor. Lynn has done NOTHING except try to build the “Lynn brand”. She has not only filled her office with inexperienced rookies that refuse to (can’t) do anything but she has also turned her back on so many entities that helped get her elected AG. Looking forward to seeing a strong challenger run against her and watching the ensuing bloodbath. At least her affinity for all things red will hide the blood stains.

Anonymous said...

"If you think things are bad now, just imagine Chip Matthews being elected as mayor." That is why I voted against him about a half dozen times up here. Looked cute in his bullet proof vest.

Anonymous said...

Other than joining in letters or lawsuits written or filed by other AGs, what has our AG actually done ? How has she herself been proactive ? I'm not trying to be mean to her, but seriously, what has she done ?

Anonymous said...

The argument that the AG's office lacks the experience to do the work is not a defense for Lynn's lackluster leadership. She took over an office that, like most government organizations, was staffed with a select few political appointees in top positions, and a large majority of career professionals who are specialists in the actual work and do good work regardless of the politics.

If you do come in and want to clean house, you usually have a plan to replace the people you fire with experienced people who can replace the lost talent. It is clear Lynn came is with no plan.

Honestly, knowing Lynn, the sad state of her office is not entirely her fault. It is the fault of her Chief of Staff and her two assistant AG's. The Chief of Staff is okaying terminations based on petty slights and power posturing.

Lynn is an absentee landlord and the people she has running the show are not doing her any favors. If she wants to clean house, she needs to reengage and start at the top. Get professionals she can trust to build a team and go to work. Not people more concerned with office politics than prosecuting cases.

Anonymous said...

I was at an event recently and heard Lynn touting that she appointed Mississippi's first solicitor general. Interesting to brag about an "accomplishment" where you create a position out of whole cloth then your solicitor general promptly leaves for a better opportunity before actually doing anything.

Anonymous said...

" Tate (while not perfect) has actually surprised me and been an effective governor".

No one is ever perfect, but Tate is light years ahead of that fat ass redneck ex-Guv from Yazoo.

Never once have I heard Tate say on CNN, FOX, MSNBC, "Mississippians know how to hitch up their britches".
(What an idiotic comment).

But back to topic, Lynn really is becoming a disappointment.

Anonymous said...

Want to see an example of the level of experience Lynn’s office is fielding? Watch the last oral argument before the Court of Appeals.

Deer in the headlights. Poor thing.

Anonymous said...

There’s no way Lynn’s administration can be successful knowing how dirty they did people who didn’t their jobs!

Anonymous said...

To 5:29- if that redneck from Yazoo had not been Governor during Hurricane Katrina and the recovery our state economy would have been in a world of hurt from mismanagement and misuse of the billions received from insurance and recovery funds ( see Governor Phil & Dept of Human Services). We are fortunate that Governor Haley Barbour & his staff rescued us!

Anonymous said...

John Wallace received severance pay also. It’s included in the by-laws already for them to receive it but wait, John is White. Never mind….

Anonymous said...

Glad more and more folks are seeing that this AG is useless. Many of her “team” have absolutely no business in their position. I know a lot of folks didn’t like Hood for whatever political reason but the place actually ran and got work done. Hope someone runs against her

Anonymous said...

to 8:34

Whatever John Wallace received as severance would never be enough to cover the service he provided. Dare you to offer up anyone else's persona of intellect & character to come close to his.

Anonymous said...

4:39, You are correct about how the AG's office is being managed. Fitch came into office with a plan to hire certain people in the top positions, such as deputy AG's, but after that she left it up to them to fire and hire staff attorneys, who, as you say, in many instances were career AG lawyers and knowledgeable in the work they did. There was a lot of institutional knowledge that her people fired, and those deputies hired buds, but always inexperienced attorneys. Perhaps the worst of them is the deputy AG who is over the criminal division. She hired a woman to run that division who had done nothing beyond being a law clerk, knows nothing of the criminal law, but, hey, they were in each other's weddings. To make it worse, that deputy AG came from the federal public defender's office, and how that does show. She has required the death penalty section to waive arguments. She made sure that the office did not try to defend Flower's suit for wrongful imprisonment, even though there was a good defense available. There are only two attorneys left in the criminal division with no real knowledge and experience with criminal law. There was a time when, combined, that office had many years of knowledge of criminal law. As for the civil division, Fitch's administration drove the head of that division to leave, and he was one of the best attorneys the office had. It is indeed worse than people know. It's worse than Fitch knows.

Anonymous said...

Knowledge, not "no knowledge" Blame grammerly

Anonymous said...

Attn 10:16 Most if not all of those she fired needed firing. From the tone of your message, you must have been one of them!

Anonymous said...

Attn 12:05 I know it was late when you posted (12:05 am). In the mid morning when you wake up, spell check your attempt to use a big word like grammArly.

Anonymous said...

at 7:57 AM
Maybe they deserved firing. One experienced attorney was fired because the chief of staff was convinced she was wrote an anonymous comment in this website. Gasp.

And if they deserved firing, why have groups like the judicial college and justice court/clerks association had to solicit her former employees to come teach at trainings because they attorney generals office keeps saying “they don’t have people who are knowledgeable to teach” at the trainings ie we don’t have the talent and know it.

Anonymous said...

@ June 11, 2021 at 7:57 AM

If they needed to be fired, then the AG's current comms people need to stop telling everyone that they can't do X because they "don't have experienced attorneys."

The goal is usually to make the office you run for better not worse.

Anonymous said...

It don't matter if what F*rve did was illegal, 2:19. If I had the stink of Nancy New on me and I had millions of dollars to spare I'd dump a good, solid $1 million back to the state just to get the smell off. The fact that F*rve don't do this tells me plenty about how he's used to smellin'.

Anonymous said...

I am still dismayed with the previous AG’s lawsuit against the electric company. The electric company (whose income is guaranteed by the public service commission’s power to regulate rates) is sued by the state (which paid private attorneys millions to handle the case). The case rightfully disappeared when Fitch was elected. Had the state won the case, millions would have been assessed against the power company which would have been passed on to the customers. Had the state lost the case, millions would have been paid by the citizens to numerous attorneys. Why don’t they teach this at that half full law school up north.

Anonymous said...

Most lawsuits against companies will result in increased cost to consumer. Anything increasing the bottom line has that effect. You are confusing cause and effect with legal vs illegal.

You are correct that many, many cases disappeared when her honor took office. Her office is very experienced drafting motions to dismiss. So many motions to dismiss.

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