The Democrat got it wrong: Auditor audits, cannot prosecute

Published 10:48 am Tuesday, February 21, 2023

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Recently The Natchez Democrat ran an editorial and made an important factual mistake, so I need to correct the record. As many know, my office uncovered a massive welfare fraud scheme—now the largest public fraud in state history—in 2020. Five people have pleaded guilty to fraud based on our investigation, and the public knows how tens of millions of dollars were wasted thanks to our audits. In the wake of our investigation, The Natchez Democrat wondered why Brett Favre and former Gov. Phil Bryant haven’t been indicted, saying, “One could argue that Mississippi Auditor Shad White has prosecuted others for much less during his time in office…”

One could not argue that. I do not have the power to prosecute. I do not have the power to say who faces criminal charges. My title is not “state prosecutor.” My title is State Auditor. I audit. My team and I are factfinders. When we conduct an investigation, we turn our findings over to prosecutors, and they make the decision about whether to indict an individual.

In the case of the welfare scandal, we’ve also provided everything we have to the FBI. The FBI has the opportunity to thoroughly investigate the case, too. Prosecutors are working with both of us to determine who, if anyone, they will indict next.

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The Democrat also said that, “We know White can act swiftly in charging others with criminal charges because he did so recently in Natchez…” No. I do not charge anyone. Prosecutors decide when to charge defendants. They also decide when to drop charges. We provide prosecutors with the facts.

The bottom line is that the world had never heard of the fraud schemes involving welfare funds, the involvement of Prevacus (the concussion treatment company that obtained welfare funds) where Favre was an investor, the million-dollar payment to Favre for speeches that were not given, or the rest of the waste that happened here until my team stepped up and revealed all this. I’m incredibly proud of the job they did, because it required an intense amount of effort and technical skill to unravel the schemes. If anyone doubts whether we have thoroughly investigated this, we have given everything to the FBI and are working hand-in-glove with them to be sure the case is fully investigated.

And — I’ll say it again for those in the back — if you want additional people charged, those recommendations can be forwarded to the prosecutors with jurisdiction in this case: the local DA, the state Attorney General, or the Biden Administration’s federal prosecutors for Mississippi.

Shad White is Mississippi’s state auditor.