Looking for love in all the wrong places: A DMR public records debacle update

I thought Phillip Thomas at Mississippi Litigation Review nailed one of the more recent developments in the State Auditor’s Office public records contempt hearing being heard before Judge Schloegel in Gulfport.  The point is short n’ sweet and dead on accurate:

State Auditor Stacey Pickering is asking the U.S. District Court to bail him out of a mess of his own creation.

And this gets us to today’s comprehensive update by Karen Nelson and Justin Mitchell for the Sun Herald on yesterday’s Chancery Court proceedings before Judge Schloegel that ties in with that:

Schloegel stopped the civil contempt hearing, in its second day Friday, so all parties could participate in a conference call with Hattiesburg U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett, who is assigned the federal case.

Also participating in the call were attorneys for indicted former DMR Director Bill Walker and his son, Scott Walker, and other DMR managers indicted in the federal investigation of the DMR.

During the call, Starrett said he had concerns about how it would fit into the investigation if his office found the records are public. Those concerns included the defendants’ right to a fair trial, if there are any grand jury secrets in the documents, and how disclosure might affect any other “targets” of the grand jury investigation.

Early on, when the first indications surfaced that former Assistant US Attorney Sal Perricone engaged in certain extracurricular no-no’s with respect to the massive corruption investigation then underway in Metro New Orleans, certain sage observers predicted the criminal defense attorneys would use it to the benefit of their clients and it worked out exactly that way.  I mention this because although we have a far different fact set in play here, if you take what the Sun Herald put out on the social media real time during the two days of hearings at face value, my spidey senses tell me the spectacle is helping rather than hurting the five former DMR employees charged with state crimes that resulted from the year long investigation conducted by the State Auditor’s office.  The concerns Judge Starrett expressed were not from any first hand knowledge of the contents of the records at question but from experience IMHO.

Here is the text of the minute entry from PACER on the call:

Minute Entry for proceedings held before District Judge Keith Starrett:Telephone Conference as to William W. Walker, Scott J. Walker, Joseph C. Zeigler, Jr, Sheila Tina Shumate held on 12/6/2013 regarding Expedited Petition to Authorize Release of Records and for Direction [62]. The Court informed counsel of guidelines for their responses to the Petition. All responses are due by December 18, 2013. Participants: Jerry Rushing, John Dowdy, Harold Britain, William Kirksey, Arthur Madden, Corban Gunn, Joe Sam Owen, Tim C. Holleman, John Corlew, Henry Laird, Harold Pizzetta, Douglas Miracle, Melissa Patterson, David Huggins, Joseph Runnels, Sandra Chesnut; Court Reporter/Transcriber Fred Jeske

Next up we need to jump back a few weeks and solve a minor mystery of the Federal case against the Walkers, Joe Ziegler and Tina Shumate. Warren Kulo’s story from last month on the gang’s first court appearance for the Mississippi Press sets it up:

One point of interest, during the hearing four of the defendants sat together in the left side of the courtroom, but Shumate sat in the right rear corner — the furthest point away from the others.

I think Tina Shutmate’s Motion for Severance solves the mystery:

Defendant, SHEILA TINA SHUMATE, fully cooperated with State and Federal investigators on the issues which are the subject of Counts 1 and 2 of the Indictment.

And her Memo in Support of the Motion explains things:

Counts 1 and 2 essentially allege from April, 2011 to July, 2011, this Defendant, SHEILA TINA SHUMATE, William W. Walker and his son, Scott J. Walker, conspired to transfer and embezzled funds from accounts of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources to the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain to purchase real property in which the defendants William W. Walker And Scott J. Walker had a financial and ownership interest; and, that a false invoice was submitted to the Mississippi Gulf Coast National Heritage Area (although it is not disclosed what was “false,” if anything, about the invoice). The Indictment alleges the Walkers’ did so “to gain personal enrichment”. The Indictment does not allege this Defendant gained “personal enrichment” or gained anything as a result of any alleged conspiracy.

Shumate’s pleading is fraught with implications. It provides clues to the reasons Shumate evidently cooperated with the FBI and why she sat as far away from the Walkers as she could during their first court appearance. The Motion, Memo in Support and Shumate’s actions in the courtroom strongly implies she tried to cut a plea deal before the indictments were unsealed.  It is very possible plea negotiations could resume at any time. How about some lovely music:

The environment is prime for all manner of twists, turns and back stabbing potential.  This much is clear, there was some serious criminal defense talent taking part in that conference call with Judge Starrett and it would not surprise me one bit to see their interest aligned with the public’s right to know with respect to the DMR records Team Pickering withheld from Judge Schloegel and the Sun Herald.  Crazier things have happened.

44 thoughts on “Looking for love in all the wrong places: A DMR public records debacle update”

  1. The testimony of Pickering’s chief investigator, Mr. Huggins, that U.S.Asst Attorney Dowdy filed subpoenas to prevent DMR documents from going public must prompt the question : Did Dowdy take any annual ski trips or fishy fishing trips with any DMR administration officials ? Huggins and Dowdy maybe cousins but how many cousins like Dowdy put their life-time professional reputations on the line for their cousin who is not even a defendant but instead an auditor investigator?

    If Huggins’ testimony is true, it seems like such implied intention by Dowdy is an out-of -bounds prosecutorial move and he should be made to pick his ball up and go back to the tee and the witness stand under oath to do some explain’. And shouldn’t Judge Schloegel have absolutely put AUSA Dowdy on the stand to discover his side and motives instead of pushing the ball into a private conference call between a different Judge Starett and the main DMR defendants’ attorneys?

    Finally, shouldn’t Judge Schloegel write a small legal opinion, as federal Judge Engelhardt wrote a small novel in Louisiana, on Mississippi AUSA prosecutorial misconduct causing Dowdy to be removed as a prosecutor in the DMR case ?

    Federal prosecutorial misconduct which is used by federal defendants’ attorneys to throw a federal hook seems like an old too familiar fishy story in these parts.

    1. Been there and done that huh?

      Dowdy and Harrison County DA Joel Smith are rumored to be related. Huggins has a lifetime in law enforcement including many years at the top of State Government in Jackson. Those two days of hearing reveal something is seriously screwy in St Louie. This is certain to dominate the overall news cycle here on the coast until Judge Starrett rules.

      1. Doug sorry for the confusion- didn’t read your twitter before Anita Lee’s twitter response. So the Miss State DMR prosecutor Joel Smith and federal prosecutor Dowdy are maybe cousins “Whistling While I Work It” , huh ?


        The fishy part is how and when the DMR records were moved, quickly under cover in a U-Haul trailer and middle of the night to Jackson, Miss., similar to how the Baltimore Colts sneaked out of Baltimore in big semis to Indianapolis before the public knew what was happening.

        1. The records being moved in the fashion they were is extremely strange. If the objective was to simply keep them from the public I don’t see why there was a need for the night operations to be conducted.

          1. I am pretty certain the records were already in a uhaul truck parked outside the courthouse were Judge Schloegel held the hearing which I think was in Bay St.Louis. When the truck left there it went to Jackson in my opinion.

  2. I am no media intellect but with all that is going on, it makes one wonder why WLOX is choosing not to cover the story. Unless my sources are incorrect, I heard they didn’t cover this weeks action. I found it strange how they were all over the people going to the court house, the county jail and the interviews with Pickering and Miller. Even after these events, they kept replaying the coverage on TV for about a week. Now with Pickering and others in the hot seat–they backed off.

    1. There has not been one word this week from WLOX about any of this .I watch their news morning evening and night. I am totally shocked by the lack of desire and it does not make any sense from a news standpoint. Sold to the highest bidder is what I think.

      1. If Pickering is held in contempt and other wrong doings are found I believe this may tarnish their reputation as a credible news source. I enjoy watching most of news crew on WLOX but I have not been a fan of their operations since what happened after Hurricane Katrina. When their operations/management allowed Rebecca Powers to create footage and broadcast her own “Katrina Story” I felt that was of bad taste on their part and hers because she was a WLOX employee and her story was really no different than anyone else who were victims of that tragic event. I considered is just a way for her to use the station to gain some publicity, sorrow and it was shallow.

  3. If, and I say IF, WLOX was paid off to keep DMR, Pickering and the followers out of the limelight, I wonder how much or what is the ante? Their pitiful answers of why they are not covering DMR are just that – pitifully weak! They are claiming they have already covered the DMR issue, the public does not want to keep viewing the same information, it is the Sun Herald issue, etc.

    And as far as the DMR Records, how many will be missing? And how many will be blacked out?

    Will Barbour, Bryant, Lott, Gollott, and the other politicians conveniently have their names blacked out?

    1. I’ve seen emails from people that called the station. They were told WLOX is sitting the hearing out because it is a Sun Herald issue. If you called or emailed Geoff Pender at the Clarion Ledger he’d probably tell you the same type thing. This is the same reason my victory in the SPEECH Act case attracted no other local media publicity because it was a Slabbed issue. What drives it is the importance of the subject matter is trumped by not giving free publicity to a competitor.

      I considered the same calculus. In the end, to understand the Gulf Publishing suit is to understand what the media here on the coast has uncovered with respect to the use of a state agency as a glorified good ol’ boys club complete with taxpayer paid fishing trips and the like. The money flows in circles and as we saw last August, straight back into the pockets of the very people that claim to be investigating the matter.

      A step further I wrote the editorial the gang at the S/H couldn’t and it isn’t because I harbor any man love for Jones Walker or Henry Laird rather because the testimony in the hearing raises very troubling questions about the operations of the State Auditor’s office as well as the Attorney General. In my opinion it is stories like this one where the news carries implications for everyone at the dance. At the end of the day I came to the conclusion that it is too important a subject to sit out.

      1. As an expert on political chicanery once remarked, Doug:

        If there is an accident in politics, you can bet it was planned that way.

  4. Too “weird” for honest people to be able to discern just what the HELL is going on. Let me add a detail that Doug and LOCK already know about: I tried to determine just WHO owned the boats that were sold at a “pennies on the dollar” so-called Public Auction(s) last July by sending Freedom of Information Act requests to the Coast Guard Vessel Documentation Section and Mississippi Public Records Act request(s) to the State Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. And you know what I got back? WE DON’T KNOW SINCE WE DON’T HAVE THAT INFORMATION. Then who does, ASSHOLES? Ashton O’Dwyer. And don’t forget that: “If Obama had a son, he would look like Philip Chism.” And don’t forget that Nelson Mandela was a TERRORIST with innocent white blood on his hands, and a COMMUNIST to boot. Since the :liberation” of the South African Nation in the 90’s, the country has gone down a SHITHOLE, like the rest of Africa. AROD.

  5. The hearing was against Auditor for civil contempt, not criminal. Gulf Publishing filed the motion for contempt and was required to put on witnesses and evidence. The parties (Auditor, DMR, SH) call the witnesses, not the judge. The purpose of the hearing is to make the Auditor get the documents, not “lockemuptight”. Besides, Gulf Publishing would have had to subpoena AUSA which is a near impossibility with DOJ. That is why the Auditor finally went to federal court – to get the federal judge to order the AUSA to release the documents back to the Auditor. The Auditor didn’t go to federal court though until the day after (Dec 5) he testified in state court. Remember, he said that was because the MS Supreme Court denied his interim appeal of Judge Schloegel’s orders. Judge Schloegel didn’t have anything to do with Judge Starret’s conference. Judge Starret called the conference after the Auditor finally filed a motion in federal court to try and get the documents back from the AUSA. Now everyone is waiting to see if Judge Starret will release the records back to the Auditor. Judge Schloegel ruled that Auditor comply with the state court order if Judge Starret releases them. A state court judge with no involvement in the criminal matters in federal court has no authority to charge a federal AUSA with prosecutorial misconduct. The two courts don’t mix.

    1. Point Ma:
      Sounds like you not only know the systems( state and federal) pretty well but the way you described “the courts don’t mix”. it sounds more like a ploy by the Auditor to intentionally delay/purge/complicate the reclaiming of the documents from the AUSA Dowdy in order to then give the documents to the SunHerald ( when the Auditor/ Asst. should never have turned over the documents to the AUSA to begin with to create such a legal tug-of-war between State and Federal Courts.

      Regarding the Auditor’s and Auditor’s Asst.’s testimony which sound like hearsay to me, unless AUSA Dowdy appears such testimony is worthless. Whether the Auditor/Asst. would be successful in issuing a subpoena their attorney had a duty to the State Court to do so, that is unless the Auditor/Asst. just wanted to use the AUSA Dowdy as a patsy to cover his own disobedience to a State Order which can result in jail time.

      Judge Schloegel in my mind by waiting to read Judge Starett’s decision was passing the buck as she should have told the Auditor that unless AUSA Dowdy appeared to substantiate the Auditor’s testimony he was in contempt of her Order period ! This is not Legal Zoom 101 but a State Auditor and his Asst. both of whom should have known better than to violate a State Order and then have to post Order violation jump through federal hoops to get the trailer full of documents back.

      1. Point Man: Forgot to add that State judges also have the power to sanction parties with civil fines per day till Order is complied with and for intentional conduct which complicates and multiplies legal issues before the Court resulting in needless waste of the Court’s docket.

        So in summary against your adverse “points of darkness”, Pickering’s ass should not only be in jail but sanctioned daily for his delay in not following the Court’s order, multiplying legal issues and using the Court to play the juvenile game of ” keep the ball away from the Herald”

        1. Lock, here’s something for you to chew on. Granted, the Feds got themselves the A-Bomb and issuing subpoenas to federales is to invite retaliation through FBI and IRS investigations. However, interference and violation of state laws does not respect persons, and if a state official with manly fortitude did decide to issue a subpoena or even file charges with the correct local agency and have that arrest warrant issue, the ratcheting up of the stakes might be such to grab the attention of the Federale goons to free those documents.

      2. Locke,I believe what we saw happen was nothing more than a crafty legal maneuver meant to deceive. Stacey Pickering has become part of the ninety percent of politicians that give the remaining ten percent a bad name.

    2. I’ve seen this kind of shennanigan play out in Louisiana under Louisiana’s version of Public Records, Title 44, and the “bell the cat” issue is essentially “how does disclosure of a record ACTUALLY interfere with a purported inquiry.” And, are we to believe the agency has only one document(s), that in possession of the “inquiring party” and NOT copies?

      The deployment of the word “interference” is a disingenuous euphemism, kameraden, often utilized by investigators and auditors who are sanitizing documents as part of the figleaf procedure, producing trifling reports which assail the nickel and dime abuses whilst the millions go into the singularity.

  6. It is interesting in “Point Man’s Point” that everyone he listed that has these DMR records are persons
    paid with public money, sooo, everyone except the public, who is footing the bill for EVERYTHING, including
    all the court hearings, attorney fees to represent all these so-called “public servants” has access to and
    possession of records of public funds—except the public to whom they actually belong.
    This sounds like “Alice in Wonderland.” Are we in the land of “Topsy Turvy?”
    I don’t mean to sound preachy, but maybe someday ( and I may not live to see it) we’ll finally live in a
    country where the public will be respected all the time, not just at election time, and the “power of love”
    will overcome the “love of power.”
    This is the kind of attitude that makes me sick every year at tax time–what am I getting for my investment?

    1. Mencken told you what you are getting, haddanuff. It’s democracy, people know what they deserve, and they get it – good and hard.

  7. I sure wish that The Sun Herald, or SLABBED, would PUBLISH the “Advertisement(s) for Public Auction” for the boats that sold for “pennies on the dollar”, as well as the “ultimate” Terms and Conditions of Sale which transferred title to the boats to the successful bidders, who pledged “pennies on the dollar” to acquire title, from WHOM? Ashton O’Dwyer. And remember: “If Obama had a son, he would look like Philip Chism.” And for Nelson Mandela, the TERRORIST and Communist, MAY HE BURN IN HELL. AROD.

  8. OK Mr. O’Dwyer who is Philip Chism ? Nelson Mandela was removed from the US Terrorist list many years ago. He also disavowed being a communist before that removal. He is South Africa’s version of Martin Luther King.

  9. To BILOXI BLUES: And I thought you were well-read. Philip Chism is a 14 year-old Negro former student, who has been charged as an adult in Massachusetts for the murder, rape and armed robbery of his former math teacher, Caucasian Coleen Ritzer, on October 22, 2013. Ms. Ritzer also had a tree branch shoved up her vagina, although it is not clear whether Chism committed this act BEFORE or AFTER he killed Ms. Ritzer by slashing her throat. Chism also “posed” the body for the benefit of Ms. Ritzer’s parents. He then changed clothes (he brought a change of clothes with him, evidencing his “pre-meditation”), took in a movie, and dined at a “fast food” outlet. During the “Trayvon Martin” MEDIA FRENZY, the “chimp” who currently occupies our White House stated for the benefit of the National Media: “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon”, in a blatant effort to polarize the races and engage in class and race warfare. Contrast the Lame Stream Media’s treatment of the Coleen Ritzer murder, rape and armed robbery (which YOU didn’t even KNOW about) with the LSM’s treatment of the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case, and turn the tables on Obama: “If Obama had a son, he wouldn’t look like Trayvon, he would look like Philip Chism.” As for ex-South African President, terrorist/murderer and Communist, he was taken off the USA’s “Terrorist Watch List” only in 2008. He served 27 years in prison, in part, because he refused early release which would have required him (as a pre-condition to early release) to renounce the use of VIOLENCE. At his trial he pleaded GUILTY to having participated, either directly, or as “engineer”, co-conspirator and/or planner in 156 separate acts of VIOLENCE in South Africa. Even black South Africans were not spared violence, paying the ultimate penalty for not being “black enough” to suit Mandela and his ex-wife, “Winnie”, who introduced the world (and their “brothers and sisters”) to something called “necklacing”. Mandela headed the “violence arm” of the African National Congress, abbreviated “MK”. Read Mandela’s book (more of a pamphlet, really), entitled: “How to be a Good Communist”. Read the South African Communist Party’s Press Release(s) following the death of “Comrade” Nelson Mandela last week. Read even the Lame Stream Media’s accounts of Mandela’s “love affair” with Communism and Communists, like Castro, which spanned many years. Does that answer all of your questions? Ashton O’Dwyer.

    1. Thank you sir. I did recall ,after I asked the question, about the Chism animal. Also the info on Mandel is appreciated. I hope, as he claimed, he did change. You as usual did a good job with your response.

  10. I too want to know who owned those boats. I heard that if the Coast Guard will release those records to you, they would show that NEITHER the YMCA or YADA ever owned those boats, even though the Y got thousands in “rental” fees and YADA and the Y both handed out giant tax deductions to the donors, whose names are known to the Y and to YADA. Yet, the Y still brags on its connection to YADA and even had YADA as one of the sponsors for the dinner honoring Roland Weeks, who is on the Y board and should know better. I don’t think the Y ever even knew how many boats Harris had in his fleet, but the money put into those vessels can and should be traced though those DMR records. I suspect that alterations and new engines were put in other boats as well, with private owners. What ever happened to the Mystic and the Laura C., 2 more Y or YADA boats fixed up with state money? Where are they now and who owns those?

    1. SmokingDolphin, in regards to the Mystic. No State or DMR money was used to purchase or fix the old boat. The Mystic was donated to the YMCA (Harris) in 2008 by Ross Dodds, the boat set in ocean springs harbor in the front of the Harbor Landing for a year after that in disarray with no repairs to it . Mr. Matthew Hinton purchased the boat in July 2009. The Coast Guard Doc reflects this. Matthew hauled the boat out in April 2010 in Gautier, and began repairs on the boat. After digging further he discovered there was a lot of work to be done and was stuck on the yard for over 400 days with little help. He has done a grand job bringing this classic boat back!

  11. Meanwhile, the pathetic excuse for an attorney by the name of D. Foshee in Jefferson Parish cites “attorney client” privilege for emails – to prevent an am of the client from reviewing the emails.

    There has to be somewhere a law school by the name of Comedy Central, because you can’t make up this crap.

  12. SmokingDolphin, The Mystic is still in OS harbor. Not sure if he has title, but Matthew Hinton appears to own it and charters it under Mystic Charters. I believe it got restored in 2011…the question is was that with MDMR money?

    1. Vessel Name: FOUNDATION USCG Doc. No.: 686487
      Vessel Service: COMMERCIAL FISHING VESSEL IMO Number: *
      Trade Indicator: Fishery, Recreational Call Sign: *
      Hull Material: FRP (FIBERGLASS) Hull Number: TPP60089B484
      Ship Builder: TOPAZ MARINE CORPORATION Year Built: 1984
      Length (ft.): 36.1
      Hailing Port: BILOXI MS
      Hull Depth (ft.): 5.9
      Hull Breadth (ft.): 13
      Gross Tonnage: 18
      Net Tonnage: 14
      OCEAN SPRINGS, MS 39564-5519
      Documentation Issuance Date: March 11, 2013
      Documentation Expiration Date: March 31, 2014
      Previous Vessel Names:
      THE BOSS

      Previous Vessel Owners:


      Vessel Name: FOUNDATION II USCG Doc. No.: 954992
      Vessel Service: RECREATIONAL IMO Number: *
      Trade Indicator: Fishery, Recreational Call Sign: *
      Hull Material: FRP (FIBERGLASS) Hull Number: CDRCD001G990
      Ship Builder: CARVER BOAT CORPORATION Year Built: 1989
      OCEAN SPRINGS, MS 39564-5519
      Length (ft.): 42.6
      Hailing Port: BILOXI MS
      Hull Depth (ft.): 8.6
      Hull Breadth (ft.): 15.2
      Gross Tonnage: 37
      Net Tonnage: 29
      Documentation Issuance Date: March 20, 2013
      Documentation Expiration Date: April 30, 2014
      Previous Vessel Names:
      POOR BOY
      YM 42

      Previous Vessel Owners:

      1. Now that was some great research. Yep, under “previous owners” I don’t see YMCA or YADA, do you? Yet, those records or the records of that bogus Foundation should show that the Y got lots and lots of jack from rental fees. I don’t see YADA there either as an owner, did the Foundation use state money to rent and upgrade those vessels and eventually purchase them from Harris when they weren’t even owned by the entities that got the money? Sure looks like it! It’s the same thing as if you went to a house you didn’t own but that no one was looking after (maybe a house donated to the Y but the Y never found out it had it?) and rented it to a couple and kept all the money! Nice scam if nobody ever audits you, and that goes for the YMCA too. Why aren’t they looking for ownership records for these boats themselves? Here’s what’s really bad; the story underwater is that the Y is still paying Harris a pension! From a Christian charity! Maybe to keep his mouth shut?

    2. Whoa there is this the same Mathew Hinton nephew of marine patrol officer David Rose who was hand picked by bill walker to run the Lyman fish hatchery. ? Might be worth looking into ?

      1. Doug, your readers are better than the auditor’s office. Lyman was the site of many of those contract jobs, right? The friends ‘n family jobs at $35.00 an hour or so? That came with free gas, free use of trucks, boats, and storage there, and some very fishy construction projects that are vacant? I bet the word that this boat was available spread pretty quick during some of those Lyman “work” sessions. Did they really have an open gas pump there too? It’s too far for me to swim; I’ve never been there. Geez, I bet a lot more was ripped off at Lyman than some bogus travel expenditures.

  13. Thanks you are so right. Another cetacean squealed that it was donated to either the YMCA or YADA by Ross Dodds, formerly of Ocean Springs and now of Tuscany. Would love to know what it was donated for and what it was sold for and what improvements were put into it in between.

    I also have to think about the people in that conference call. Why were the defense attorneys included? In a criminal defense, is this stuff the prosecutor has to give them, since they have to give them everything?? Will this affect the admissibility of the records at trial or will Joe Sam and his satanic brethren (all of whom were born with tails, like me, but not the same kind of tail) use this foolishness and chest-beating to get their clients off? This would be funny if it wasn’t a huge, tragic scam on us.

      1. RFP,

        I also think that Doug Scearce delivered some “high heat” with his comment in the SH:

        “I just don’t see any difference in the DMR now and when Jamie Miller took over.”

        Yes, I believe that Doug is exactly right and most people should realize that real work was already accomplished (and ongoing) before he got there by Danny Guice.

        Since Millers inauguration he has actually created a good amount of dirty laundry and stained bed sheets with the Frontier shenanigans, the questionable hiring practices and other decision based activities.

        I believe it’s just a matter of time before he bagged with a labor lawsuit.

  14. What a great letter to the editor by Doug Scearce in today’s Sun Herald!

    Maybe some of you letter writers would like to also try your journalism skills to the public touting how great, honest, sincere and accountable DMR is under Jamie Miller’s fabulous leadership. Yep; and pigs fly, huh!

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