Jamie Miller came to the Executive Director’s job at the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources with a reputation as a no nonsense hatchet man and he has lived up the PR in his first 10 months on the job. In true Mississippi political fashion the surviving, politically connected finalist was also hired on with the agency as well so as to minimize blowback potential, Joe Cloyd got another do nothing sweetheart state contract and all was declared well with the world.
Mistake not the fact that Miller was Phil Bryant’s man from the start as there was never really any competition for the Executive Director job in the wake of Bill Walker’s departure from the agency. Miller Time reigns supreme at DMR and so it is natural the local legislative delegation would be pushing reforms that give even more power to the executive director and that is exactly what Senate Bill 2579 does.
Like most legislation it contains things that people would judge to be good and bad. I personally like the fact the agency will be required to have an annual audit performed. That said on these pages commenters have decried giving the Executive Director even more power and when I read the bill I wondered why there is even such a thing as a Commission on Marine Resources given the Executive Director’s sweeping power to hire the top positions with no oversight. More on that in a bit.
The problem with all of this is what the legislation is incapable of fixing in employee morale at DMR, which several sources with knowledge of the Bolton building landscape indicate to Slabbed is very low. One place the problem is manifest is in finding people to staff professional positions such as Director of Fisheries. Paul Hampton inadvertently explains for the Sun Herald:
Dale Diaz, who retired in October as director of fisheries at the Department of Marine Resources, is coming back as a contract employee.
Diaz will represent the DMR at the Gulf of Mexico Fisheries Council at a cost of $25,000 in a five-month contract. The money, which will cover his salary and travel expenses, will come from the council, Miller said.
“Dale was my designee to represent DMR’s management and policy positions,” Miller said. “In order to maintain continuity with our agency positions I’m requesting the commission authorize me to contract with Dale beginning Jan. 31. That would run through June 30.”
Sources with knowledge of the vacancy that are not authorized to speak with the media indicate to Slabbed that DMR has had trouble attracting qualified applicants to replace Diaz, whose position is an “at will” type of job within the DMR. In this instance Miller’s rep as a hatchet man is working against him. My experience moderating Slabbed covering the DMR scandal is those circles literally span the nation but are still a universe where everyone seemingly knows everyone. It will be interesting to see if Miller can replace Mr. Diaz by June 30 with a qualified applicant that is not:
- A politically connected sex offender that received a Haley Barbour pardon.
- A relative of a politician.
Finally I found the answer to my rhetorical question as to the function of the Commission on Marine Resources. Paul Hampton inadvertently answered it too:
The Commission on Marine Resources, against the recommendation of its Shellfish Bureau, voted 3-0 Tuesday to keep oyster dredging season open for 30 days more.
Richard Gollott, a CMR commissioner who’s also vice president of the shrimp-packing firm Golden Gulf Coast Packing Co., pushed for the longer season during a presentation on the oyster reefs by the DMR’s Fisheries Division.
He said he went on a trip to the oyster reefs Thursday and those oysters he saw were quite large and that was reason enough to keep the reefs open to dredging.
“As big as my hand,” he said.