FILE - Bribery Hands Under Table Money

(The Center Square) — The Mississippi House passed a Senate bill this week that would create a "Public Funds Offender Registry" of those convicted of either stealing from taxpayers or attempting to bribe government officials.

Senate Bill 2420 will soon be headed to Gov. Tate Reeves' desk for signature after the House passed the bill 103-9 on Tuesday. The bill would require the state Department of Public Safety to build a public website that would create a registry of those convicted of embezzlement or misappropriation of taxpayer funds along with those convicted of bribing officials.

Those on the registry would remain on it until their money and restitution is paid back to taxpayers. Also, the bill would disallow anyone on the registry from being hired for a state or local government "for any position in accounting, or in a treasury or registrar office, or in any office where monies are collected or received directly from rate or fee payers."

Mississippi has had some high-profile cases in recent years, including former Department of Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps. He resigned in 2014 and was indicted on charges of accepting $1.4 million bribes and kickbacks from prison service contractors. He was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison. 

State Sen. Jeremy England, R-Vancleave, sponsored the legislation and campaigned on it when he was elected in 2020. 

"Like my fellow Mississippians, I have grown tired of reading about individuals stealing money from taxpayer and ratepayers," England told The Center Square. "The Public Fund Offender Registry will provide a listing of all individuals that have proven themselves as untrustworthy when handling public funds.

"I wanted to add another layer of transparency and accountability. These crimes cost Mississippians money when the stolen funds are not available for their intended use."

The bill, if signed into law by Reeves, would go into effect on July 1. 

Regional Editor

Steve Wilson has been an award-winning writer and editor for nearly 20 years at newspapers in Georgia, Florida and Mississippi and is a U.S. Coast Guard veteran and University of Alabama graduate.