Money from MCI-Miss. settlement finally given to state

John O'Brien Feb. 1, 2007, 1:29pm


JACKSON, Miss. - Months after Mississippi State Auditor Phil Bryant determined Attorney General Jim Hood's $4.2 million payment to the state's Children's Justice Center was improper, the center on Friday gave the money back to the state.

The money was given to the center after Hood's office, along with special assistant attorneys general, negotiated a $100 million settlement with MCI in 2005 concerning back taxes owed the state as a result of the 2002 collapse of its predecessor, Worldcom.

Hood has been frequently criticized for hiring Boonesville attorney Joey Langston, a campaign contributor, to represent the Attorney General's Office as a special assistant attorney general.

As a result of the settlement, Langston's firm received $14 million, paying a Louisiana firm $7 million for first noticing the alleged problem.

Without input of other state officials, Hood donated $2.95 million to the Children's Justice Center, and Langston donated another $1.25.

Gov. Haley Barbour spoke out against the move, saying that the Legislature should be the one to appropriate state funds.

In October, Bryant determined that Hood did not have the authority to make the donation, and on Friday the Children's Justice Center returned the money.

According to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, the Legislature is considering a bill that would steer the money into a similar center at the University of Mississippi Medical Center for abused children.

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