Franks, Bryant Point Fingers

By: Jon Kalahar Email
By: Jon Kalahar Email

State Rep. Jamie Franks, a Democrat running for Mississippi lieutenant governor, says more could have been done to stop a failed beef plant that cost taxpayers more than $50 million. He's laying the blame at the feet of his Republican opponent, State Auditor Phil Bryant.

"If he had done his job early on in the game, the whole disaster could have been avoided," said Franks.

Franks said he believes Bryant botched the investigation into the failed beef plant, but before that, he says Bryant could have stopped the project all together.

"Phil Bryant did not assign the appropriate accounting procedures and standards necessary to avoid this debacle," Franks said.

He accused the state auditor of running before cameras too soon to announce an investigation was underway, an investigation that could have netted more offenders and more money for the state.

"Truth of the matter is, our agency was the first to discover any wrong doing," answered Bryant.

But Bryant says without the approval of the legislature, the plant could never have gotten off the ground. An approval, he says Franks voted in favor of three times.

"He voted to create this and now he's being critical of the agency that's doing something about it," Bryant said.

Bryant says the auditor's office first investigated the beef plant in March of 2003. In January of 2005, they were joined by the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office and the investigation continues.

"This political stunt by Mr. Franks doesn't help at all," said Bryant. "It adds no benefit whatsoever to what were trying to do."

But Franks maintains Bryant's efforts are too little too late.

"Phil Byrant maintains he has recovered approximately $13 million on behalf of the taxpayers of Mississippi, when in fact the sad reality is he has cost the taxpayers of Mississippi over four times that amount."

Bryant said the joint investigation with his office, the FBI, and the U.S. attorney is not complete and he expects more money to be recovered.

Bryant and Franks are on the Nov. 6 ballot.

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