Investigation of DMR cronyism continues

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New federal audit says federal funds were used for land buys and projects that benefited family, friends and associates of former Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Director Bill Walker.

Since October 2012, the Sun Herald has reviewed thousands of public records, faithfully reporting about cronyism and abuse at Mississippi’s Department of Marine Resources as revealed by federal and state investigations.

Their latest story details a federal audit that says environmental preservation funds were misused by the DMR. A report from the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Interior Department shows that almost $16 million in Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) land buys and projects benefited the family and friends of former DMR Director Bill Walker and former CIAP Director Tina Shumate. Walker was fired and Shumate resigned in January of this year.

The scrutiny of the DMR began with the September 2012 release of a preliminary audit of the agency by the inspector general. The Mississippi State Auditor began looking at DMR the following October. The FBI is also investigating.

The allegations of cronyism center on Walker and Shumate and include: the lack of bids for work, high appraisals for land purchases, the use of federal funds to purchase property owned by their family members, and the leasing of two large recreational fishing boats from a foundation led by Walker.

The DMR, located in Biloxi, is the lead agency for the spending of hundreds of millions of federal dollars that come to the state for the preservation, restoration, and promotion of the Mississippi Coast. It handles millions in state money and is an arm of law enforcement on the coastal waterways.

>> Read the Sun Herald’s collection of DMR stories and public records. <<

  •  “Editorial: Federal audit of DMR paints picture of conflicts of interest, mismanagement,” June 22, 2013
  •  “DMR hasn’t been audited by the state in over 10 years,” March 9, 2013
  • “Documents show DMR spends on clothes, boat motors and bait,” Feb. 16, 2013
  • “DMR pours more then $1.4 million into fishing boats in South Mississippi,” Dec. 8, 2012
  • “$210,000 from DMR buys Walker’s son’s land,” Nov. 10, 2012.

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