In the interest of we’re all in this together, I recently re-read the indictment in USA v Scruggs. However, it wasn’t until I re-read the Motion to Dismiss filed by the Defense on counts 2, 3, and 4 and the Government’s response, that I began to understand the implied authority in these counts that gave them added significance.
In that regard, however, there is a piece of the puzzle missing in both the motion and the response – the audit trail “when such state or local government or agency received in any one year period benefits in excess of $10,000 under a federal program”.
Only two audit trails could be followed to reach Judge Lackey – and no evidence of either one was contained in the indictment, the defense motion or the government’s response.
If this puzzle is of interest to you, your first stop needs to be OMB and the circulars that apply when federal funds are awarded to states and local governments. Three definitions from A-133, the audit requirements, appear to be significant to USA v Scruggs.
State means any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, any instrumentality thereof, any multi-State, regional, or interstate entity which has governmental functions, and any Indian tribe as defined in this section.
Local government means any unit of local government within a State, including a county, borough, municipality, city, town, township, parish, local public authority, special district, school district, intrastate district, council of governments, and any other instrumentality of local government.
Recipient means a non-Federal entity that expends Federal awards received directly from a Federal awarding agency to carry out a Federal program.
Next, stop by what’s known as Legislative Bill Status, the website of the Mississippi State Legislature, or just link to the relevant legislation here – the 2006 and 2007 appropriation for the entity of State government that could be described as the judicial branch, the Mississippi State Supreme Court. These two pieces of legislation were passed in the 2005 and 2006 sessions, respectively.
It’s not just what you see that’s important when you look, it’s what you don’t.
There are just two funding streams authorized for use by the State’s courts, the State General Fund and the Special Fund account where fees and fines collected by the courts are deposited. If there were any pass-through federal funds reaching any State court, the amount of those funds would be listed in the appropriation. None are.
Thus, the only remaining that route federal funds could follow and reach Judge Lackey would be an award for a specific federal program where he/his court is a designated recipient – possible but not likely and definitely not evident in any of the three case documents. However, the word recipient is controlling.
Another puzzle regarding these counts is the idea of Judge Lackey being an “agent” of Lafayette County – noting that county government is federally-defined above as separate from state government. Clearly he has statutory authority over all of the counties in his District that creates an inherent conflict as being an “agent” of the County would give him authority over himself! How that could possible be is a puzzle to tackle another day.
We’re all in this together and we all need to be thinking about these and other issues. Sop’s our resident CPA and I’m sure he’ll have more to say as well as take questions.