Local News

Witnesses Say Phipps Knew About Loan Repayment, Other Illegal Practices

Posted October 27, 2003

— Some witnesses who testified in the Meg Scott Phipps trial Monday claim even more people knew about illegal campaign practices involving the former Ag commissioner's staff.

Phipps is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice charges stemming from a campaign-finance scandal. On Monday, jurors heard from retired deputy state agriculture commissioner Weldon Denny, who said he knew about some of the illegal activities.

Denny talked about two instances in which Phipps received thousands of dollars in illegal contributions. He testified that carnival operator Jimmy Drew handed Phipps a total of $15,000 in exchange for a long-term, lucrative state fair contract.

Denny also told jurors about a time in which Linda Saunders, a former aide of Phipps, had approached him about calling him to get $5,000 to help pay off a campaign loan by former Phipps aide Bobby McLamb.

Drew later took the witness stand and confirmed that he made at least one cash payment of $10,000 to Phipps in a sealed envelope.

Under cross-examination by Phipps' attorneys, Drew admitted he lied to investigators and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges.

Jurors also looked at a videotape of Phipps' testimony in a 2002 State Board of Elections hearing. Prosecutors claim Phipps lied about her involvement in the campaign finance scandal.

Last week, Phipps' father, former Gov. Bob Scott, and Phipps' husband, Robert Phipps, were also named as people who knew of the illegal actions. However, neither of them, along with Denny, have been formerly charged in the scandal.

Testimony will resume Tuesday with more video of the 2002 State Board of Elections hearing. In addition, former deputy Ag commissioner Mike Blanton is expected to testify.

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