Brad Pigott claimed his termination was politically motivated, but State counters that contract expired and better representation was sorely needed.
Former U.S. Attorney Brad Pigott claimed on Friday that he was terminated from representing the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS) in their legal actions seeking to recoup millions of misspent TANF dollars via a civil suit for political reasons. The state has countered with substantial justification as to the insufficiency of Pigott’s claims.
Pigott was hired as outside counsel for MDHS in July 2021 with a contract date of August 1st of that year. His hiring was approved at the time by both Attorney General Lynn Fitch and the Executive Director of the State Personnel Board.
Pigott’s version of the story generated this headline: “State fires attorney probing former Gov. Phil Bryant in welfare scandal lawsuits.”
The outlet’s article heavily implies that Pigott’s filing of a subpoena on the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation for its communication with Bryant and others related to funds received for a volleyball stadium could was the driving issue in the termination.
The outlet even used this sub-header to tease their article:
“Brad Pigott, who was zoning in on high-profile welfare scandal players who have so far escaped legal scrutiny, says his firing was politically motivated. It is unclear whether the termination could weaken or end the state’s ongoing civil lawsuit.”
Pigott was quoted in the outlet’s article as saying, “I am sure they can find a loyal Republican lawyer to do the work.”
Y’all Politics contacted MDHS to get their side of the story and to clear up any confusion on the matter.
MDHS confirmed that it entered into a contract with Pigott to represent the agency in its efforts to recover millions of dollars in TANF funds. The initial contract with Pigott was for a one-year term, which is set to expire on July 30, 2022.
“Pigott was retained because of his extensive experience in handling False Claims Act and related fraud matters. He and I were former colleagues in the United States Attorney’s Office and we litigated cases together in which we recovered millions of dollars for the taxpayers. That is what we expect to do in this litigation,” explained Robert G. “Bob” Anderson, Executive Director at MDHS.
MDHS says that the course of the past year, Pigott drafted the initial complaint and made a solid start at moving the litigation along.
However, on at least one occasion, Pigott made decisions about the litigation and filed pleadings without any prior dialogue with officials at MDHS.
“Although USM Athletic Foundation is not yet a party in this case, Brad Pigott issued an extensive subpoena to that entity without any prior discussion of the matter with MDHS. Attorneys represent clients, and MDHS is the client in this case. I hope I don’t need to explain that an attorney needs to remain in close communication with his client at all times. Any review of complaints filed with the Mississippi Bar will reveal that communication – or lack thereof – is at the center of many of those complaints,” Anderson said. “When it becomes apparent that the client and the lawyer are not on the same page, the client has every right to find another attorney.”
MDHS confirmed to Y’all Politics that Pigott was in fact not “fired,” as was breathlessly reported. His contract was simply not renewed based at least in part on not representing MDHS to their standard.
“Mr. Pigott was advised that he should wrap up his work by the end of the month and submit a final invoice on his current contract,” Anderson said.
During the initial stages of the litigation, Pigott a solo practitioner, was able to adequately represent the department to their satisfaction. However, as litigation progresses, in order to vigorously pursue this litigation, a full service law firm with substantially more legal resources must be retained, the agency told Y’all Politics.
MDHS will be retaining another attorney or another law firm to continue with the TANF litigation.
The change in attorneys does not indicate any change in the commitment of MDHS to recover these TANF funds for taxpayers.
“We will be consulting with the Attorney General, who must approve our choice of outside counsel, and we hope to get a new attorney in place soon,” Anderson concluded.