The “Deep State” in Mississippi is not just one department or agency. The Legislature allocates money to departments and agencies. Laws are in place to try and prevent misuse. The most current issue that has arisen does involve the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE). It was reported on September 4, 2020, that a federal grand jury has brought forward charges against four people for misusing public funds. Included in the four was a former head of the MDE. The indictment leveled charges against Cerissa Renfroe Neal of Madison County, Mississippi, David B. Hunt of Jackson, Tennessee, Joseph Kyles of Memphis, Tennessee and Lambert Martin of Memphis, Tennessee. All were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and seven counts of wire fraud. Additionally, Cerissa Neal and Joseph Kyles will both face another count of money laundering and three counts of bribery. Investigators found all the crimes were committed while Cerissa Neal was working as the Executive Director of MDE during the years of 2013-16. Neal and all of the others instigated bid-rigging, false quotes and altered purchase orders to falsely award contracts and verify altered and inflated purchase orders. Kyles, Hunt and Martin’s business profited from the arrangements and Neal was paid for her services. Cerissa Neal, also, split contracts into smaller deals so they would not trigger the formal bidding process. She, also, used her position to allow inflated quotes from herself and those conspiring with her to comply with the MDE requirement of two competing bids and ensure the bids were the lowest. This aided the cover up of the scheme. Current law forbids the breaking down of the amount of a contract to escape the bidding system. State Auditor Shad White issued this statement: • “I applaud the investigative work in this case and that of our federal partners. In 2017, the auditor’s office provided information about these defendants to federal authorities, so I’m grateful for the work of those investigators and former Auditor Pickering as well.” U. S. Attorney Mike Hurst said in a news release: • Those who defraud the public’s trust will find themselves standing before a court of law to answer for their wrongs. Public corruption erodes faith in our democracy and decays the very soul of our form of government.” Who is at the helm of MDE and oversees the performance of its employees? Dr. Cary M. Wright is the Mississippi State Superintendent of Education. Her salary is reported to the highest in the United States for State Superintendents. Management of the public funds has to be a top priority. We are not a rich state. But with proper management of our tax dollars, we can do what we need. Like I said, it’s not just one department. We must demand that tax dollars be spent for the public good in a judicious manner. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are lost that could be used in classrooms of Mississippi.
I want to keep you informed. Pray for your legislature to work hard for a better Mississippi.
Please, contact me, if I can assist you. My cell is 662-231-0133 or my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. God bless, Randy