Mississippi taxpayers spent more than $1.4 million on ‘food for business meetings’

BIG WINNER: Casinos and resorts, mostly in Mississippi,, received $517,610 from state taxpayers in fiscal 2014.

By Steve Wilson | Mississippi Watchdog

When it comes to food for business meetings and lodging, Mississippi is playing with house money. Money from the taxpayers, that is.

And don’t ask why the money was spent. A no-answer or a maybe is about as far as you might get with these state agencies.

The state spent more than $1.4 million for “food for business meetings” in fiscal 2014, according to an analysis of records by Mississippi Watchdog. The state also spent $517,610 in fiscal 2014 at casinos and resorts, mostly in Mississippi. Some of that money went to provide food for business meetings, but it also included some lodging fees.

The biggest line item paid at a casino was for $96,240.79 to the Beau Rivage in Biloxi by the Mississippi Development Authority for “promotional dinners and receptions.” The MDA was the biggest spender, with $179,855 spent at four different casinos.

The office of the Attorney General spent $45,766 at Harrah’s Casino and $50,519 at the Imperial Palace for “food for business expenses.” Jan Schaeffer, a spokesman for the OAG office, said the expenses were probably for two training sessions for prosecutors.

Speaking of the “food for business expenses,” casinos weren’t the only recipients of money allocated to pay for the appetites of state employees. The state spent $1,467,335 in fiscal 2014 on that line item alone, which is less than it spent in 2013. That tab amounted to $1,646,174.

So who had the state’s biggest bill for food? The Mississippi Department of Education ran up a $97,664 tab to the Jackson Convention Center for a conference and $54,000 to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum for another.

According to MDE spokesman Jean Cook, the first was for a series of eight training events held over 16 days by the federally-funded Office of Special Education. The second was for a three-day conference.

During the Battle of Leyte Gulf during World War II, American fleet commander Admiral Bill Halsey received a coded message from his superior, Admiral Chester Nimitz. The message inquired where his fleet was located in relation to a force of Japanese battleships and cruisers making way for the amphibious group landing on the Philippines islands. Since messages in those days were padded at the beginning and end with nonsense phrases, one which didn’t sound nonsensical made Halsey sick to his stomach.

What was that phrase? “The world wonders.”

Mississippi taxpayers will be left wondering if the more than $1.4 million tab for “food for business expenses” was too much for the nation’s poorest state.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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