Miss. lawmaker McGee faces ethics complaint

By Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press

JACKSON – The Mississippi Ethics Commission has filed a formal complaint against Republican state Rep. Kevin McGee of Brandon over $428,759 of public printing contracts that it said went to his private employer.

The nonpartisan commission had been scheduled to hold a hearing on the matter Friday, but it was delayed because attorneys for the first-term lawmaker are in settlement talks with the commission, said commission executive director Tom Hood.

“Some time back, we got an anonymous package in the mail alleging he had violated the public ethics law,” Hood told The Associated Press on Thursday.

Hood said the commission conducted an investigation and found McGee was president of Service Printers, which had $428,759 worth of contracts with 26 state agencies from January 2008 — the month McGee took office — through August 2011. That involved 321 transactions, Hood said. He said he did not know what type of work the company did for the agencies.

“The commission found probable cause to believe he violated three separate parts of the ethics law,” Hood said.

State ethics laws say public servants may not have financial interests in companies with government contracts.

McGee and attorneys — Republican state Reps. Mark Baker of Brandon and Jeff Smith of Columbus — did not immediately return calls Thursday.

An employee who answered the phone Thursday at Service Printers said McGee no longer works there.

Hood said that if McGee is found in violation of ethics laws, he could be fined $10,000 per occurrence and have to repay the state all the money for the contracts.

The commission also could ask a Hinds County circuit judge to remove McGee from office, though Hood said he didn’t want to speculate about whether it will make that request.

McGee, 41, represents House District 59, which is entirely in central Mississippi’s Rankin County. He is seeking another four-year term and is unopposed in the Nov. 8 election.

State Ethics Commission investigations are kept secret until the commission files a formal complaint and removes confidentiality from the case. Hood said Thursday that in the McGee case, the complaint was filed and confidentiality was removed June 3. But he said the commission never posted a notice or sent out a news release about the action because settlement talks were under way and “there was no conclusion to announce yet.”

“This is completely normal procedure,” Hood said.

The Ethics Commission has eight members — two each appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, House speaker and Supreme Court chief justice. As executive director, Hood is not a member of the commission. He presents investigative information to the commission when it holds hearings.