Lawyers and an investigator working for Attorney General Jim Hood logged nearly 300 hours looking into his opponent for governor, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, and whether Reeves influenced plans for a now-halted state road from his Flowood neighborhood to a nearby shopping center.
According to attorney general records newly obtained by the Clarion Ledger, at least three attorneys and one investigator — not including Hood — spent time on the probe since summer 2018. The investigation likely cost taxpayers at least $15,000, based on average AG attorney salaries and other factors. Hood's office did not provide its own cost estimate.
The frontage road has become a central issue in the race for governor between Reeves, a Republican, and Hood, a Democrat. Both launched television ads about it and discussed in on the campaign trail and in a debate.
Hood accuses Reeves of improper influence on the project. He's pledged to build "public roads not private driveways" if elected. Reeves says it was an "abuse of power" for Hood to investigate his political opponent. Hood received criticism from some good government groups for his direct involvement in the probe.
The records show no work was logged on the investigation for about six months, until late May. The election was gearing up at this time, with both Hood and Reeves preparing for their respective primaries and already expecting to face each other Nov. 5.
Three attorneys then recorded working on the project through much of the summer, until the investigative report was released Sept. 11. Hood had two former state Supreme Court justices independently review the results and provide their analysis.
The candidates launched dueling TV ads attacking each other about the frontage road in recent weeks. And they addressed it at length in their first debate earlier this month.
"The attorney general chose to use taxpayer funds to investigate his political opponent," Reeves said in the debate. "And when his career investigators wrote the report, he didn't like what they said, so he admits that he personally rewrote the report."