Mississippi lawyer fired after filing subpoena over misspent welfare funds

A lawyer for the Mississippi Department of Human Services was fired on Friday after he filed a subpoena looking into the state’s misspent welfare funds, Mississippi Today reported.

Driving the news: Former US attorney Brad Pigott subpoenaed the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation this month for its communications with former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, his wife, Deborah Bryant, and NFL star Brett Favre, according to Mississippi Today.

  • The subpoena suggested an interest in examining the Bryants and Favre’s role in the state’s welfare scandal.

The big picture: A state audit in 2020 found that Mississippi misspent tens of millions of dollars of welfare funds, including $1.1 million that went to Favre for speaking engagements he did not attend, according to the New York Times.

  • While Favre eventually paid back the state $1.1 million, the Department of Human Services filed a lawsuit in May accusing Favre and others of misspending and wrongly receiving welfare funds, Mississippi Today reported.
  • The University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation was not named in the lawsuit, despite receiving $5 million in welfare funds to build a volleyball stadium.

State of play: Pigott’s subpoena this month asked for information about the volleyball stadium’s funding, in addition to its communications with the Bryants, Favre and others, per the New York Times.

  • The director of the Department of Human Services claimed that Pigott was fired because he did not consult with the agency prior to filing the subpoena.
  • However, Pigott sent draft copies of the subpoena to the attorney general’s office and the welfare agency’s general counsel beforehand, according to emails obtained by Mississippi Today.

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