Fight over MCI legal fees continues in Miss. court

MCI, which was based in Virginia and was later sold to Verizon, settled Hood’s lawsuit in 2005 and agreed to pay the state $100 million and hand over real estate valued at several million. Langston, of Booneville, and Balducci, of New Albany, who supported Hood’s political campaigns, negotiated the additional $14 million payment from MCI.

Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, however, who was the state auditor at the time, sued in Hinds County in an attempt to send the $14 million to the Legislature to be appropriated. Bryant was running for lieutenant governor at the time.

Langston’s attorneys claim Bryant was only trying boost his campaign.

“If you look at what happened and the chronology, I don’t see how any reasonable person could reach a different conclusion,” said Langston attorney, Fred Krutz.

Krutz said the settlement was reached in 2005, but Bryant didn’t sue to get the legal fees back until the 2007 campaign began.

Bryant’s spokesman, Mic Bullock, said Friday the accusation is unfounded.

“It is sad that this individual would make that kind of comment because this money belongs to the taxpayers of Mississippi and the lieutenant governor continuities to believe that just as he did as state auditor,” Bullock said.

Whatever the case, Pickering, also a Republican, picked up the fight after replacing Bryant as state auditor.

“We believe the facts are on our side,” Pickering said. “These funds are taxpayer dollars and Mississippi constitutional law is very clear that only the Legislature can appropriate those funds.”

Krutz, on the other hand, said Langston expects to win in court. And if he doesn’t — and the money is appropriated by the Legislature — Krutz said Langston will ask lawmakers for nearly $17 million.

“The auditor could win the battle and lose the war,” Krutz said.

Clarion Ledger
12/7/8