Politics & Government

AG Jim Hood releases investigative report on road to Tate Reeves’ neighborhood

Attorney General Jim Hood on Wednesday released an investigative report about his opponent for governor — Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves — and whether Reeves influenced plans for a now-scuttled state road from his gated neighborhood to a nearby shopping area.

The 43-page report found a possible violation of a section of the Mississippi Constitution intended to prevent corruption and abuse of office. It also states the AG’s efforts to obtain documents and other information during the investigation was thwarted by Reeves and the state Senate, as well as by the Legislature’s exemption of itself from open records laws.

Still, Hood said he will not take any further action beyond releasing the report, which he said “speaks for itself.” He said the state’s next attorney general could choose to continue to pursue the investigation using subpoenas and depositions.

“(The report) should be read by the press and public, which can make their own judgment as to the actions and conduct of Lt. Governor Reeves,” Hood said in a statement.

For more than a year, Hood has investigated Reeves over the proposed $2 million frontage road project that would have connected Reeves’ private subdivision to a nearby shopping center. A 2018 Clarion Ledger investigation found the road was fast-tracked because of political pressure.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation halted the frontage road project after the Clarion Ledger article. Reeves has denied any involvement in the frontage road project and criticized Hood’s investigation as partisan gubernatorial politics.

Reeves’ office did not immediately comment on the report Wednesday afternoon. Campaign officials said they were still reviewing it.

On Wednesday Hood also released a nine-page opinion on the findings written by former state Supreme Court Justice David Chandler after Chandler and former high court Chief Justice and AG Edwin Lloyd Pittman reviewed Hood’s report.

Chandler wrote: “A reasonable factfinder could review the evidence in the report and conclude that Lieutenant Governor Reeves wanted the frontage road to be built and additionally applied political pressure to that end. However, I do not believe any evidence in the report establishes that the Lieutenant Governor received or could have potentially received any amount of compensation for the project to the extend that liability arises under Section 109 of the Mississippi Constitution.”

Chandler noted one potential legal issue — that Reeves and his wife “own a membership share” in their neighborhood homeowners’s association — could pose an issue. Pittman stated that section of the state constitution says that no member of the Legislature shall have a direct or indirect interest in any law or order by the body in which they serve.

Hood said his office “will take no further action on this matter” but noted the next AG elected in November could.

Reeves already had harshly criticized Hood’s efforts on the report in recent weeks, just as their race for governor heated up. After Hood said he was personally writing the report last month, a Reeves campaign spokesman said his involvement was “beyond a conflict of interest — it is abuse of office.”