Payment To Memphis Activist From MDE In Auditors Sights


State Auditor Stacey Pickering is investigating why the Mississippi Department of Education was buying information technology goods from Memphis community activist Joseph B. Kyles.

MDE has said that whoever authorized paying Kyles more than $214,469 in the 2015 fiscal year is no longer with the agency. No contract or other paperwork beyond the payment invoices have been found.

Pickering said he was not satisfied that Kyles was a legitimate vendor from which the state should be buying information technology equipment.

Kyles has been the head of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition for Memphis and has been active in the Black Lives Matter movement. He is also the nephew of the late civil-rights activist Samuel Billy Kyles.

You may remember Kyles made news late last year with his arrest on an aggravated assault charge for allegedly choking his pregnant girlfriend, according to numerous Memphis news reports.

A records search shows Kyles owns a company called The Kyles Company, which filed as an LLC in Tennessee in 2015, but has since been dissolved.

Kyles has no registration for a company in Mississippi according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

There were five payments by MDE to Kyles in 2015, all below $50,000, which is the threshold that requires bidding.

But they all appear to be for the same project, according to invoice records.

In addition to the five payments totaling $214,000 in fiscal 2015, MDE contracted with the Kyles Company in 2016 for $49,908 as a consultant.

Pickering called the purchases, “not just a red flag, but a red neon sign”.