/Frontage road probe Pittman uniquely qualified to consider ethics issues involving road project from Reeves’ neighborhood

Frontage road probe Pittman uniquely qualified to consider ethics issues involving road project from Reeves’ neighborhood

He is also one of two Mississippi Supreme retired justices who were asked by Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood for a review of the report on the $2million frontage road. This was to make it easier to access busy state Highway 25 in Rankin County, which was to be built to serve as Lt. Governor. Tate Reeves’ gated community. Hood published the report Wednesday. Reeves, and/or his staff, were accused of putting pressure on the Mississippi Department of Transportation to build the road despite internal documents from that department indicating that it was not necessary for safety reasons. Pittman answered that he was not sure if Reeves had violated Section 109 (the state Constitution’s ethics clause). He said, “It’s an issue that should be considered.” “I don’t know if this is an issue that should be prosecuted, however it must be considered.” Pittman, who is now 84 years old and has long since retired as the chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court is uniquely qualified to comment about the frontage road controversy. Pittman was the 1980’s attorney general and filed the landmark case that established modern guidelines for Section 109 interpretation. Section 109 was created to stop public officials profiting from public service. This is why state senator Hillman Frazier (D-Jackson) had to quit his job as a professor at Jackson State University in 1980. Frazier was not allowed to serve on the Legislature, the funding body for Jackson State. He could also work for Jackson State. It is important to note that no one has said Frazier was doing anything illegal, unethical, or unethical. Because of how Section 109 is written, and interpreted by Supreme Court, there is a high standard. Pittman stated that Hood was correct to investigate the matter surrounding the frontage road. Pittman said Hood was also right to pass the information from the investigation to the next attorney general, either Republican Lynn Fitch (Democrat) or Democrat Jennifer Riley Collins (Democrat), who will be on November’s ballot to replace Hood. Hood will face Reeves in November’s general election for governor. This complicates the issue further. Hood is accused by the Reeves campaign of not conducting an adequate investigation and of publishing the report too close to election day for political purposes. According to the campaign, Hood was praised by local officials from Rankin County for his safety measures. In a press release, the Reeves campaign stated that Hood’s involvement in the mishandling of this report raised serious ethical concerns over Hood’s willingness and ability to abuse his office to his political advantage. Emails revealing multiple communication between Reeves’ and the Department of Transportation regarding the project were revealed in the AG’s report. Some Department of Transportation employees felt pressured into completing the road, according to testimony. Hood’s former Supreme Court Chief Justice David Chandler also read the report. In a 10 page opinion, Chandler stated that “A reasonable factfinder would have reviewed the evidence and concluded that Lt. Gov. Chandler wrote that Reeves wanted the frontage roads to be built, and also applied political pressure to achieve this end. Reeves’ spouse was also a member of the homeowner association which negotiated an easement agreement with the Department of Transportation regarding the building of the frontage road. Is this a Section 109 violation? It could boil down to whether Reeves would have received more value from the frontage road that was abandoned after the controversy surfaced last year. Chandler stated that he was not certain that the frontage road issue led to a Section 109 violation. He isn’t sure it can be proved that Reeves would have received “pecuniary benefits” if the road had not been built. However, he indicated that his conclusion is not final. The bottom line is that, despite all the finger-pointing and political intrigue, more than $400,000 of taxpayer funds was spent on a project to make it easier to turn left onto busy roads for approximately 150 households. The next attorney general will decide if Reeves will attempt to recover those funds.