Biden appoints new U.S. attorney who will inherit welfare scandal investigation
President Joe Biden has nominated Todd Gee to serve as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, a post that has been vacant since President Trump appointee Mike Hurst resigned in January 2021.
Gee, a native of Vicksburg, has served as deputy chief of the Public Integrity Section of the Department of Justice 2018. He previously served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., from 2007 to 2015, and before that as counsel and policy advisor for the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security.
Gee, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, will take office as the federal government is reportedly investigating the massive welfare scandal in Mississippi, where his background in the Public Integrity Section of DOJ might come into play. The Public Integrity Section, created in 1976 after the Watergate scandal, prosecutes criminal abuses of public trust by government officials. It investigates and prosecutes alleged misconduct of public officials in all three branches of federal government, plus state and local public officials.
Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs said he was pleased Gee received the appointment.
“He is a great person for that job,” Flaggs said. “He has always been an intellectual young man. Todd Gee will adhere to the law.”
Flaggs said Gee’s grandfather, Nathaniel Bullard, served as mayor of Vicksburg from 1973 until 1977 and also was a chancery judge. He had another relative who was a district attorney.
“He comes from a family of lawyers,” Flaggs said.
The Vicksburg mayor said U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of the 2nd District of Mississippi, the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee where Gee previously served as lead counsel, supported the nomination and recently announced the pending nomination at a civics club meeting in Vicksburg.
Earlier Thompson wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice following Mississippi Today’s series The Backchannel, which broke new details on the welfare scandal. In the letter, Thompson asked federal authorities to specifically investigate the role of former Gov. Phil Bryant in the welfare misspending or theft.
“My understanding is all of the allegations that have been made are currently under investigation,” Thompson told Mississippi Today Friday when asked if the U.S. Attorney General had responded to his letter. “Actually there’s a report in the press that the FBI has already engaged some of the people … When the neediest citizens are compromised by what happened with the TANF (welfare) funds, we have to make sure that those perpetrators of that illegal activity are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Thompson continued: “I don’t care if you’re a quarterback on a football team, if you are governor of the state of Mississippi, or if you like volleyball — those things shouldn’t be spent and supported by TANF dollars. I have a very vulnerable district in the state. Those dollars were intended to make life better for families in need. I don’t know how those individuals who took that money can sleep at night knowing they took resources from the neediest people.”
Biden also announced two nominees for U.S. Marshal for the Northern and Southern districts of Mississippi. Michael Purnell, who has served many years with the Mississippi Highway Patrol, was nominated for the Northern District. Dale Bale, a professional protection officer for a private security service in Hernando, was nominated for Southern District Marshal. Bale previously served with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department.
All the appointments announced Friday require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
Other key federal posts remain open in Mississippi. Biden has not announced a nominee for U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi.
Plus, a federal judgeship remains open in the Northern District. Judge Michael Mills of the Northern District announced in November he was taking senior status, creating an open judgeship.