/Senate refuses Hood’s request for frontage road project information

Senate refuses Hood’s request for frontage road project information

Burton, R-Newton said that the Senate would not comply despite there being “nothing cover up.” He also stated, “When we receive a request such as that, that’s what we send to everyone.” Hood stated that “the law states we have control over our records.” He also responded to Thurday’s statement. Hood said, “I want to make it clear to all senators and staff that the Senate rules won’t protect them from a court order to reveal any and all records relating to this civil inquiry.” Anybody refusing to destroy or disclose such evidence could be subject to civil or criminal contempt. The destruction of evidence may be considered obstruction of justice if it is a criminal investigation that results in a grand jury subpoena being issued. The main issue is that legislative leaders must not hide behind their rules in order to prevent their voters and bosses from knowing who has influence on legislation. “Legislators should be subjected to the Open Records Act, just as every state, county, and municipal elected official.” Hood ordered senators, staff, and the Department of Transportation to give to his office any written documentation related to the project. The state’s open meeting and open records laws exempted legislators from long-standing. Hood claimed that Hood’s request was “a litigation holding letter”, which he described to Hood as a legal term that would stop legislators from using the exemption for public records and public meetings. Hood received a July letter from Reeves denying any involvement in the decision-making process for building the road. Reeves wrote: “After conducting two independent reviews of electronic communications between me and any members of our staff regarding the frontage roads project, and without waving my legislative privilege that I and other senators undisputedly enjoy under Mississippi law, none of the written documents that met the criteria of your request were found.” Burton’s letter cited Mississippi law as well as Senate rules about the Legislature’s exclusion from public records and open meeting laws. The Senate rules restrict public records access to expense reports and other items, but it does not prevent the Rules Committee, Burton’s governing body, from disclosing records at its own discretion. Burton stated that the Rules Committee’s decision not to comply with the law is not unusual. Burton stated that the Legislature is currently fighting to release Senate and House correspondence in a lawsuit to stop a bill that would have stripped the city of Jackson’s control over the Jackson-Medgar Wiley-Evers International Airport. Hood stated that Hood was authorized by state law to pursue misappropriated transportation funds. Hood stated that if any money was misappropriated in preparation for the suspended project, then he would have a duty file suit to recover such state or federal funds. The frontage road project cost $320,000 before it was stopped earlier this summer. After a Clarion Ledger article, Dick Hall, Central District Transportation Commissioner, delayed the frontage road project. Sources claimed that pressure from the Senate (where Reeves preside) influenced the Mississippi Department of Transportation’s decision to build the road. Hood stated that he was not saying anyone did anything wrong but that evidence must be preserved to enable an independent investigator to examine it. Hood said that his office might not conduct the investigation, but was unclear about who might. He stated that the issue was whether any public official involved in the project received financial benefits. People want to know. He stated that if I don’t do it the public won’t know. Hood was accused by Reeves of playing politics when he issued the request. They are the most prominent gubernatorial candidate in 2019.