AG Hood, Lt. Gov. Reeves speak about investigation into controversial Frontage Rd. project

AG Hood and Lt. Gov. Reeves speak about investigation into controversial MDOT frontage road project

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - There's a new public battle unfolding between two likely candidates for the 2019 governor's race.

Neither Tate Reeves nor Jim Hood have officially announced a gubernatorial run, but they're already trading jabs.

The back and forth revolves around the $2 million Frontage Road project that would connect two Flowood subdivisions to the Dogwood shopping area.

Reeves lives in one of those subdivisions and questions have come up about whether there was undue political influence over the project.

"Normally I don't make any comment about any kind of investigation," said Attorney General Jim Hood. "Y'all know you always hear we can't confirm or deny it. This is a little bit more unusual situation."

"Well, of course, it's different because it's political grandstanding by an ambitious politician," noted Lt. Governor Tate Reeves. "That's all it is."

AG Jim Hood said the reason the latest investigation is out in the open at the onset is because of the litigation hold letters they delivered to Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, legislators, staff and MDOT officials Wednesday.

"The attempt here is to try to make sure we've thrown a net around all the evidence so it's preserved for an independent review," explained Hood.

Hood notes there may be nothing to it, but enough questions have been raised that it deserves a closer look. He adds that an exception about public records in the state law is the other reason he had to send those letters.

"If I don't do it then the public will never know because you can't get access to those emails," Hood said. "Because I want to make it real clear, the legislature exempted themselves. Our office, any other office, has to turn over emails and those kinds of information."

Reeves said he'd already asked his staff to turn over all emails and communications and couldn't find any mentions of the project.

"If there is evidence that there was political involvement by the State Senate, I want to get to the bottom of it," he noted.

Last week, MDOT Commissioner Dick Hall said he was behind the decision making on the project, not Reeves. But MDOT's executive director Melinda McGrath said that happened only after receiving pressure from the Senate. Reeves maintains he had no involvement and thinks Hood has other motives.

"If you're thinking about running for political office next year, the only reason you would personally go after your potential opponent is for political reasons," added Reeves.

Hood said the investigation would likely be handled independently if the submitted communications show any reason to further pursue questions of political influence.

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