But before we get to that I think we can now conclude that Jamie Miller released the preliminary report months after the fact in order to soften the blow in the final report, which he certainly knew was close to completion when he leaked the first report out to the Sun Herald.
I have skimmed the report and besides all the bad things we already knew about double dealing Billy Walker and his family along with Tina Shumate and her family, left unmentioned anywhere in the media to this point is the fact both the preliminary and final reports are damning to the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, an organization both the Sun Herald and Slabbed identified early on since they served as financial intermediary in the DMR purchase of Scott Walker’s land,
Individuals connected to the Land Trust not speaking in an official capacity indicated to Slabbed the Walker purchase technically met the guidelines as property worthy of preservation. I noted the Inspector General does not seem to buy into that notion. Even worse, the OIG identifies a conflict of interest no one seemed to notice. Here is the specific verbiage from the final OIG report:
That pesky Billy Walker mud hole claims another victim in Judy Steckler, who joins the Walker and Shumate families in the local conflict of Interest club.
I’m not a LTMCP Board member but if I were I’d suggest a resignation was in order and if the person that needs to resign doesn’t leave, then I would because what the OIG describes in their report is that bad. The end result of selling out the organization to Walker and his family was the Land Trust’s purchase of Scott Walker’s land, helping Bill Walker conceal the transaction by acting of financial middleman. The taxpayers of Mississippi are now stuck with the bill.
Worst part for me was that Jim Hood’s office was asleep at the switch when it came to Tina Shumate purchasing her parent’s house. He was handed it on a silver platter and ignored it.
Slabbed has not played favorites in this mess for a couple of reason the main one being that we’re equal opportunity muckrakers. That said over the past few months I have formed a mental picture of the agency and its operations and I think now is a good time to ask the question whether the agency was originally structured to fail. By that I mean classically state agencies are tasked with a specific role and have politically oriented oversight boards that are susceptible to regulatory capture but because of the constantly shifting sands of the political world the impacts are many times transitory. After reading the DMR section of the Mississippi code the agency is designed to be a captured regulator to the special interests that are given seats on the governing board in the Commission on Marine Resources. The mess you see today is the result.
In some circles there is an attitude that is expressed by the notion that insert special interest (environmentalists, sport fishermen, commercial fishermen) would love to see everyone resign from the Commission on Marine Resources but draw the line at forcing their guy out if the others stay. These acts of perceived self interest by the special interests are precisely what Walker and his ilk exploited to the hilt. I think the agency would get by fine without any oversight board and the executive director answering directly to the Governor, which is what the CMR has been doing since the scandal broke.
This is plenty enough to digest in the first bite at the OIG apple. The entire report is 79 pages long and chock full of the wasting of taxpayer money by the local political aristocracy. It is a must read.