As I reported earlier today, the Mississippi auditor and attorney general sued Hinds County Supervisor Robert Graham over alleged double-dipping. Graham, they say, was running a private business while on the clock getting paid as the Jackson Police Department's public-information officer. Lisa Ross, his attorney, just returned the call I placed earlier when she was in court and repeated assertions she's made all along -- that the investigation is politically motivated.
She said the demand Pickering served on Graham mentions her client "and others" who benefited from the payments in question.
"If this is about recouping taxpayer money that was wrongly paid, why should Mr. Graham be the one to repay money that was paid to others?," Ross asked. "He was not a supervisor of anyone; he didn't sign anyone's time card from the city of Jackson. He wasn't in charge of paying city employees, so why should he have to repay money that allegedly was mispaid to these individuals?"
Ross continued: "These issues surfaced when he became a county supervisor, around that time. That's when it picked up steam," she said of her client. Pickering, the Republican state auditor, served a demand on Graham, a Democrat, in May 2011. Despite the elections being behind us (Graham easily held on to his seat and eventually replaced George Smith as board president), Ross thinks Pickering is trying to save to face at this point. "If you start a fight, you can't just dump the fight can you? If you want to make it look like it was legitimate to begin with. Once Stacey Pickering got in it, I guess he had to finish its course," she said.
The fact that the complaint, filed yesterday, came from both Pickering and Democratic AG Jim Hood's office is of no consequence. "Jim Hood didn't sign this complaint. I don't know that it came from his office; I don't have the complaint sitting in front of me. I have not had a chance to see if the attorney on this complaint is someone assigned to Stacey Pickering's office," Ross said. (The complaint is signed by special assistant attorney general Melissa C. Patterson).
She maintains that Graham did not commit fraud and believes a jury will agree. Asked if she believed her client had a better chance in front of a Hinds County jury, she responded: "We're not looking for a partial jury. We're looking for a jury that will be fair to the state of Mississippi and to Mr. Graham."