AG Jim Hood say county employee who handed out campaign material broke no rule

Complaints and a misunderstanding over a county employee handing out campaign materials at the Rankin County circuit clerk’s office have led some state officials to call for an overhaul of the state’s election code.

While the complaint made news in late June, officials have determined the would-be scandal involved no illegal or unethical actions, leaving some to wonder whether existing state law should be tweaked.

State Attorney General Jim Hood confirmed the employee’s actions were legal according to state statute. The law only applies to employees who are paid with state and local tax funds, he said.

Since the employee in question is paid through collected fees, Hood said, the law doesn’t apply.

“It’s something I’d like to look at,” he said. “I’d like to work on drafting legislation that would fix this problem.”

State Auditor Stacey Pickering said he’d be interested in working with the attorney general’s office and the state Legislature to address the “vagueness” that exists in the current law.

“We definitely have a situation where someone working with the public’s trust may have overstepped the bounds,” Pickering said. “The federal government had addressed this through the Hatch Act.”

Clarion Ledger
7/4/11