The first sign of a lapse in ethics is that a couple of state legislators were allowed to win a contract to handle closing the homeowner grants. Sen. Tommy Robertson, R-Moss Point, and Rep. Jim Beckett, R-Bruce, created a company, Jackson County Land & Title, that won a deal that may gross more than $1.2 million from a $250 fee charged to homeowners getting a grant in Jackson and Harrison counties.
Robertson said Ben Stone, ethics commission vice chairman, did approve of the legislators bidding for the contract. Stone has been unavailable for comment. But it seems that Stone also has some ethical soul-searching to do. His law firm created the agreement that homeowners sign to get grant money. The Mississippi Development Authority hired Stone's firm, Balch and Bingham, according to Scott Hamilton, the authority's spokesman.