Mayor Frank Melton suggested that City Councilman Marshand Crisler and his brother Johnny Crisler were the focus of an investigation by the FBI in an interview with WJTV last Thursday. The next day, Crisler called a press conference to say that Melton's comments were an "egregious and malicious attempt to impugn" his family's character.
Earlier this month, the FBI subpoenaed documents from the city, and there have long been indications that the FBI is investigating the mayor, as reported by the Jackson Free Press on June 20.
"I don't think it's appropriate to talk about any federal investigation," Melton told WJTV in his first public comments on the matter, before suggesting that the investigation involved Crisler.
"I am deeply, deeply concerned that one of the people involved in receiving the fees (from the $150 million Jackson Public Schools bond) happens to be the brother of a city councilperson. I'm not saying—that may not be inappropriate—it just bothers me very much," Melton said.
When WJTV asked who the mayor meant, Melton responded: "It's Marshand's brother."
Melton referred to Johnny Crisler, who is chief executive officer of Preferred Management, which won a bid from JPS to manage bond projects.
"The money that they're getting off this bond could be going to the children, could be going to the schools, and not going into their pockets, and I feel very strongly about that," Melton added.
At his Friday press conference, Crisler said that the mayor is attempting to deflect attention to another target because the investigation focuses on Melton himself.
"He is absolutely lying—there's no question about it," Crisler said. "It's an absolute fabrication. It's an egregious and malicious attempt to impugn not only the character of my brother, but more importantly, me. The statement was unfounded and absurd."
"If you're going to go on the record saying that then you'd better have your facts in order. There are none that exist suggesting me or my brother are being looked at, but I wouldn't have any confidence in what (Melton's) saying anyhow, especially considering the source," Crisler added.
Crisler said he had heard from sources inside city government that the FBI subpoenas focused on four areas: the Upper Level, where juvenile associates of Melton allegedly beat and kicked a manager in handcuffs on Aug. 26, 2006, the same night as the Ridgeway incident; the Ridgeway incident itself; the city's attempts to demolish A-1 Pallet Company; and Melton's alleged attempt to influence the JPS bond vote in favor of Integrated Management Services.
In April, members of City Council told the JFP that Melton's chief of staff, Marcus Ward threatened JPS Board Vice President Jonathan Larkin's re-nomination if he did not vote for the bid from IMS, though sources inside JPS told the JFP that the IMS bid was higher than the bid from Preferred Management. Ward denies the allegation.
Despite the alleged threat, Larkin voted for Preferred Management. Melton then issued a memorandum to council members asking them to withdraw Larkin's name for re-nomination to the board.
The FBI has refused to comment about an investigation, citing bureau policy.
Melton told WJTV that he had not been called to testify before a grand jury, and that even if he had been, he could not discuss those details. "Those are very private subpoenas, and they're not to be discussed in public, and I believe that someone violated that, and eventually may have to pay the price for that," he said.
When asked if the subpoena had anything to do with him, Melton replied: "We've been through that a few times before. There's some very powerful people in this community who want me out of this office, and you can start with the (A-1) Pallet Company."
On June 20, Hinds County Chancery Judge Dewayne Thomas issued a temporary restraining order against Melton on behalf of the pallet company, which Melton has said he wants demolished.
Melton has made many unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoing by public officials in recent years, including District Attorney Faye Peterson, who brought Melton before a grand jury in the Ridgeway incident. Melton also lied under oath to a Lauderdale County judge for nearly two years in a defamation lawsuit filed by two Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agents.