“Ronnie Musgrove had nothing to do with the awarding of any of the contracts related to the beef processing plant and at no time did anyone try to influence him regarding the awarding of such contracts,” campaign manager Amanda Crumley said Wednesday in a statement to The Associated Press.
Crumley said Musgrove was not available for an interview Wednesday, but she sent a written statement that switched the attribution of a quote from herself to Musgrove. She said the words were his.
“If anyone defrauded the taxpayers of the state of Mississippi, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Musgrove said.
Musgrove was governor from January 2000 to January 2004, when most of the work was done to develop the Mississippi Beef Processors plant. He is now challenging Republican Roger Wicker for a U.S. Senate seat.
The plant was open only a few weeks in Oakland before closing in late 2004 and leaving 400 people out of work. Mississippi was stuck with $55 million in state-backed loans for the 140,000-square-foot plant.
Musgrove was not charged or named in the indictments of three executives of a Georgia-based architecture, construction and engineering company. But a series of events outlined in the indictments match up with campaign contributions Musgrove reported in 2003, when he unsuccessfully sought a second term.
Also, an attorney for Robert Moultrie, 67, one of the executives, is asking the court for permission to use two polygraph examinations that his client took in 2006 in which he twice denied contributions to Musgrove’s gubernatorial re-election campaign were meant to influence the awarding of contracts.
Political foes, however, are sure to seize on any chance to connect Musgrove’s name to the failed beef plant. The project has been a hot topic for years on talk radio and among people who say the facility was a waste of taxpayer money.