Phipps' top aid resigns

An attorney says the top aide to former Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps resigned today. Attorney Sam Currin says Mike Blanton submitted his resignation to interim agriculture commissioner, Britt Cobb. Blanton had been deputy agriculture commissioner.

A federal grand jury says Blanton lied to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and a grand jury about his knowledge of Phipps' campaign finances and coached a witness to lie. That is according to a ten-count indictment issued Friday.

Blanton's indictment was followed quickly by Phipps' resignation. Blanton is the third Phipps aide to be indicted. The grand jury is investigating Phipps' campaign finances during her 2000 race and State Fair contracts awarded since she took office in 2001.

Currin has said Blanton maintains his innocence. Blanton could get up to 65 years in prison and $2.5 million in fines if convicted of all the charges.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)