The Environmental Protection Agency has launched a review of the water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi, which left thousands of residents without water for days, an official confirmed to CBS News Saturday.
Jennifer Kaplan, spokesperson for the EPA's Office of Inspector General (OIG), told CBS News that the agency had launched a "multidisciplinary review" of the crisis.
The OIG has sent personnel to Jackson who are currently on the ground collecting date and conducting interviews surrounding work related to the city's water system.
"We're going to be talking to as many people as we can and see what kind of work we can do," Kaplan said. "It is all hands on deck."
Kaplan also told CBS News that she had notified the office of Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba of the EPA's inquiry.
Kaplan explained there are three divisions involved in the review: audits, evaluations and investigations.
She would not specify which divisions were deployed by the OIG.
The work is similar to the investigations in Flint, Michigan, and Red Hill, Hawaii, Kaplan said.
The Flint investigation resulted in nine indictments. Kaplan explained that if there is evidence of criminal activity, the information will be referred to Justice Department. The OIG personnel will also be interviewing state and local officials and their employees.
Text messages entered Monday into the state’s ongoing civil lawsuit over the welfare scandal reveal that former Gov. Phil Bryant pushed to make NFL legend Brett Favre’s volleyball idea a reality.
The texts show that the then-governor even guided Favre on how to write a funding proposal so that it could be accepted by the Mississippi Department of Human Services – even after Bryant ousted the former welfare agency director John Davis for suspected fraud.
“Just left Brett Favre,” Bryant texted nonprofit founder Nancy New in July of 2019, within weeks of Davis’ departure. “Can we help him with his project. We should meet soon to see how I can make sure we keep your projects on course.”
When Favre asked Bryant how the new agency director might affect their plans to fund the volleyball stadium, Bryant assured him, “I will handle that… long story but had to make a change. But I will call Nancy and see what it will take,” according to the filing and a text Favre forwarded to New.
The newly released texts, filed Monday by an attorney representing Nancy New’s nonprofit, show that Bryant, Favre, New, Davis and others worked together to channel at least $5 million of the state’s welfare funds to build a new volleyball stadium at University of Southern Mississippi, where Favre’s daughter played the sport. Favre received most of the credit for raising funds to construct the facility.
Bryant has for years denied any close involvement in the steering of welfare funds to the volleyball stadium, though plans for the project even included naming the building after him, one text shows.
New, a friend of Bryant’s wife Deborah, ran a nonprofit that was in charge of spending tens of millions of flexible federal welfare dollars outside of public view. What followed was the biggest public fraud case in state history, according to the state auditor’s office. Nonprofit leaders had misspent at least $77 million in funds that were supposed to help the needy, forensic auditors found.
New pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts related to the scheme, and Davis awaits trial. But neither Bryant nor Favre have been charged with any crime.
And while the state-of-the-art facility represents the single largest known fraudulent purchase within the scheme, according to one of the criminal defendant’s plea agreement, the state is not pursuing the matter in its ongoing civil complaint. Current Gov. Tate Reeves abruptly fired the attorney bringing the state’s case when he tried to subpoena documents related to the volleyball stadium.
The messages also show that a separate $1.1 million welfare contract Favre received to promote the program – the subject of many national headlines – was simply a way to get more funding to the volleyball project.
“I could record a few radio spots,” Favre texted New, according to the new filing. “…and whatever compensation could go to USM.”
So current GOP Gov. Tate Reeves killed the prosecution, but the embezzled welfare money came from the federal government. I guarantee you the DoJ is looking at all of this too. They turned millions in welfare money into a slush fund for the GOP, and let some of the poorest people in the country continue to suffer rather than help them.
That's corruption and racism, and it's a tale as old as America itself.