MDHS to hire new attorney over legal battle to recover millions in TANF funds

(WLBT)
Published: Jul. 23, 2022 at 1:21 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Mississippi Department of Human Services is hiring a new lawyer or law firm to continue its efforts to recover millions of dollars in TANF funds.

About a year ago, MDHS entered into a contract with attorney Brad Pigott to represent the agency in the recovery of misspent funds.

The initial contract with Pigott was for a one-year term, which is set to expire on July 30, 2022.  

“Pigott was retained because of his extensive experience in handling False Claims Act and related fraud matters. He and I were former colleagues in the United States Attorney’s Office and we litigated cases together in which we recovered millions of dollars for the taxpayers. That is what we expect to do in this litigation,” explained Robert G. “Bob” Anderson, Executive Director at MDHS.

MDHS says over the course of the past year, Pigott got off to a good start, but at one point made decisions about the litigation and filed pleadings without any prior dialogue with officials at MDHS.

“Although USM Athletic Foundation is not yet a party, in this case, Brad Pigott issued an extensive subpoena to that entity without any prior discussion of the matter with MDHS. Attorneys represent clients, and MDHS is the client in this case. I hope I don’t need to explain that an attorney needs to remain in close communication with his client at all times. Any review of complaints filed with the Mississippi Bar will reveal that communication – or lack thereof – is at the center of many of those complaints,” Anderson said. “When it becomes apparent that the client and the lawyer are not on the same page, the client has every right to find another attorney.”

Pigott was notified on Friday that MDHS would simply allow his current contract to expire and would not be entering into another contract.

During the initial stages of the litigation, the agency also said Pigott a semi-retired solo practitioner, was able to adequately represent the department.

However, as litigation progresses, in order to vigorously pursue this litigation, a full-service law firm must be retained.

MDHS will be retaining another attorney or another law firm to continue with this important TANF litigation.

The change in attorneys does not indicate any change in the commitment of MDHS to recover these TANF funds for taxpayers.

“We will be consulting with the Attorney General, who must approve our choice of outside counsel, and we hope to get a new attorney in place soon,” Anderson concluded.

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