Beef plant: Keep your eye on Musgrove total

hed: Beef plant: Keep your eye on Musgrove total

In the case of the Mississippi Beef Processors Inc. fiasco, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers in open court on Aug. 17 during the recent sentencing of MBP president Richard Hall Jr. that the judge could expect either additional plea bargains or additional federal indictments in the case.

For his role in the $55 million beef plant failure, Biggers sentenced Hall to eight years in federal prison and ordered him to pay $577,964 in restitution.

Earlier this month Carothers Construction Co. president Sean Carothers was sentenced to 21 months in prison for paying kickbacks to Hall.

In his plea agreement, Carothers admitted that his company built the plant under a contract costing taxpayers $18.8 million and that he illegally paid Hall $173,000 and helped Hall hide the payments. For this, Carothers repaid $250,000 to the state.

Both Hall and Carothers are supposed to be cooperating with the ongoing federal and state investigation of the beef plant.

Highlights of the campaign contributions of Sean Carothers and his family, compiled from the the Web site www.followthe money.org, which is run by the Institute on Money in State Politics, include:

- In 2003, beef plant supporter Rep. Tommy Reynolds, D-Charleston, received $10,000 in contributions from the Carothers about a year after work began on the beef plant.

- In 2003, former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove got a $1,000 contribution from Sean Carothers.

- In 2003, then gubernatorial candidate Haley Barbour got a total of $7,750 from the Carothers.

Hall and Mississippi Beef Processors Inc. did not show up in the database as campaign contributors.

But the most interesting campaign contributions connected to the failed beef plant went to Musgrove’s 2003 gubernatorial campaign – which got a total of $59,000 in campaign contributions related to the beef plant project in addition to the $1,000 from Carothers.

The Clarion-Ledger has previously reported that the Facility Group of Smyrna, Ga., acted as project manager for the beef plant after the Mississippi Development Authority hired it in June 2003 for $3.2 million. The Facility Group Political Action Committee then donated $45,000 to Musgrove’s re-election bid in August and September 2003.

Those donations came after Facility Group chairman and CEO Robert Moultrie made an individual donation of $2,000 on July 24, 2003, to Musgrove’s campaign.

Musgrove’s total

But this column has learned that Facility Management Group Inc. also gave Musgrove $1,000 on July 24, 2003, while a total of 11 other Facility Group senior executives individually gave Musgrove $1,000 contributions each on that same July 24, 2003, date, bringing Musgrove’s total beef plant related campaign contributions to $60,000.

State officials had previously said Facility Group was paid $3.2 million, but under a contract involving the Facility Management Group, the state and Hall, the company would ultimately receive $6.5 million.

The state promised to pay $3.54 million in a “lump sum fee” for project management services, according to the contract. The document sets out that Hall was to pay an additional $3 million “services compensation” fee. The state ended up paying Hall’s share, too, when the plant went under.

Contacted last week in Georgia, Facility Group personnel declined to comment for this column. But in 2005, Musgrove denied knowing any of the people involved in the beef plant project. “I think later on, they along with many other small and large businesses, certainly believed in the direction we were headed in the state,” Musgrove said of the Facility Group’s campaign contributions.

Contact columnist Sid Salter at (601) 961-7084 or e-mail ssalter@clarionledger.com. He can be contacted by mail at 201 S. Congress St., Jackson, MS 39201.