State questioning Hinds County Election Commission spending

Election Commissioners Jermal Clark and Yvonne Horton discuss the board's decision to remove...
Election Commissioners Jermal Clark and Yvonne Horton discuss the board's decision to remove Toni Johnson as chair.(WLBT)
Published: Jul. 29, 2021 at 5:29 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Days after the Hinds County Election Commission voted to remove Toni Johnson as its chair, officials have confirmed that the commission is being investigated by the state.

“There have been some inquiries from state agencies on possible discrepancies and practices, and we already have already provided what has been asked for,” said County Administrator Kenneth Wayne Jones.

Jones said the inquiries were made regarding “discrepancies on invoices and requisitions.”

He did not say what agencies were conducting the investigation or say what discrepancies the agencies were looking into.

He said conversations with those agencies were “ongoing.”

Officials with the State Auditor’s Office would not confirm whether they were doing an investigation.

The Secretary of State’s Office and Attorney General’s Office had not responded to a request for comment.

Last week, the commission held a special meeting to vote out District 2 Commissioner Toni Johnson as commission chair, just a day after District 2 Supervisor David Archie called out the board for misspending thousands of dollars in election grant funding.

Last fall, the commission received a $1.5 million for election outreach from the Center for Tech and Civic Life.

A WLBT investigation revealed that nearly $5,400 was spent to purchase two 85-inch smart TVs, while $738 went to purchase two home/office projectors.

The items were not in the county’s inventory earlier this week when we reached out to the commission.

Another $35,900 went to purchase ink pens to give voters on Election Day and $62,000 was spent to provide breakfast, lunch and dinner to approximately 612 poll workers, county documents show.

Innovative Concepts 50, the firm brought on to provide the meals, was formed only two days before the commission issued a requisition for the Election Day food, according to county and state records.

County invoices show that Innovative Concepts was paid another $87,500 to distribute voter education materials in District 5 and 5 prior to the 2020 election.

The purchase requisition for the food was issued by Toni Johnson on October 9, 2020. According to Secretary of State filings, Innovative Concepts was incorporated on October 7 of the same year.

The company’s registered agent is listed as Undare Kidd. We reached out to the email address that was provided in the company’s filings but have not received a response.

A lump sum payment of $149,500 was paid to the firm on November 10, 2020 for all three services provided, according to county documents.

Copy of payment for Innovative Concepts 50.
Copy of payment for Innovative Concepts 50.(WLBT)

Board of Supervisors President Credell Calhoun said the administration also would be providing additional oversight to the Election Commission.

“We had some problems in the public works department, and we caught that, and we caught some in this department too,” he said. “The administrator is going to be working – he has a crew looking at every contract that comes through now to make sure they’re on the up and up.

“We’re just trying to protect the taxpayer.”

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