Senate favoring Brown

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 7, 2009

JACKSON (AP) — A top lawmaker said he expects the Senate to reconfirm Butch Brown as executive director of the Mississippi Department of Transportation, despite opponents’ belief that Brown has an abrasive management style.

The Senate Highways and Transportation Committee voted 13-4 Wednesday to recommend that Brown stay in the top administrative position in an agency with 3,300 employees and a combined federal and state budget of $1.1 billion. He is paid $144,354 a year.

The committee chairman, Republican Tom King of Petal, said a background investigation by a legislative watchdog group showed ‘‘no illegal activity at all’’ by Brown. Because of that, King said there was no reason not to support Brown.

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The full Senate is scheduled vote on Brown’s reconfirmation Thursday.

‘‘I have not twisted any arms or asked anybody to vote. That will be a decision of each member,’’ King said. ‘‘What I’m hearing, there are enough votes out there that we’ll confirm him.’’

After the committee vote Wednesday, Brown shook hands and thanked senators who supported him. On Tuesday, several of the committee members asked Brown tough questions about his travel expenses, his management style and his support of parole for a convicted murderer.

‘‘It’s unfortunate that there had been this kind of controversy, I guess you’d say, over the reconfirmation,’’ Brown told reporters Wednesday. ‘‘We think we’ve done a great job. We know that the department is solidly working together now, at least more than it ever has in the past. We want to be able to continue that.’’

Brown, a former mayor of Natchez, was first nominated as MDOT director in 2001 and was confirmed in 2002. He was fired by one group of elected transportation commissioners in November 2004, then rehired six weeks later.