The FBI indeed. God bless this great land. Patricia dear please come take a well deserved bow.
The FBI indeed. God bless this great land. Patricia dear please come take a well deserved bow.
OK folks excuse me while I take a few victory laps for my prediction about Walker having pictures on everyone.
Well, I took the lap but I’m not the champ, actually we have co-champs in Michael Newsom, Karen Nelson and Anita Lee at the Sun Herald because today they dare to ask the question, “Exactly how much does it take to co-opt a Mississippi State Legislator?”. The answer is not much beyond taking ’em on a few fishin’ trips on those boats Walker owns via his “nonprofit” or charters that the taxpayers paid for and this is both pathetic and sadly predictable.
And yes we have pictures as the boats have/had Facebook pages. It gets better folks as the we also learn the Friends and Family Program at DMR also included an employment agency component for all the little politically connected piggies in West Jackson/East Harrison Counties including Joe Ziegler and his wifey Connie Ziegler, Tina Shumates family, Scott Walker’s wifey Trinity etc etc etc. Heck folks don’t take my word for it:
‘A lot of accusations’ yield no action on DMR ~ Michael Newsom.
Words can not describe the incompetence and malfeasance on display yesterday at the Commission of Marine Resources meeting.
So if Walker has pictures on Vernon Asper and the other commissioners on the Commission on Marine Resources then Slabbed must replicate in kind so I just sent Patricia a bat signal on twitter!
— Slabbed New Media (@SLABBEDblog) December 19, 2012
Governor Phil Bryant remains in hiding.
The scandal at DMR is growing exponentially with the addition yesterday of Madison County Tax Assessor Gerald Barber and his wifey Elizabeth Rooks-Barber to the party. Madison County is where all the rich white folks that didn’t flee Jackson to Rankin County ended up. 😉
It appears the Sun Herald has all hands on deck as 4 of their reporters checked in yesterday with two stories, the first linked above by Anita Lee, Karen Nelson and Paul Hampton which detailed how the DMR engaged in bid rigging via split purchase fraud steering work to Barber and his wifey. We also back the date up on the OIG involvement to mid July, 2012 which is significant as it implies the Interior Department was looking at DMR since at least May, 2012 based upon my professional experience, perhaps even earlier.
Michael Newsom wrote a cradle to corruption history of the DMR yesterday as well that is a must read for background. I think the Louisiana chapter of the Slabbed Nation will find this scandal worthy of their attention thus the Sun Herald is also timely signalling their intent to take this story home with a DMR page which has links to all their reporting on the scandal. This in turn implies they agree with the community’s assessment this story will be huge in its scope and reach, having already ensnared the likes of the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain and it’s Executive Director Judy Steckler, who allowed the organization to be used as a money laundering vehicle by DMR to hide a specious father-son land deal funded with CIAP funds. Frankly it is not too soon to drop that dreaded 4 letter acronym RICO as predicate acts abound in the emergent fact patterns. Despite that fact Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant remains in hiding along with the Commission on Marine Resources. Mississippians deserve far better from their elected officials.
There is a larger story here in the complete lack of state oversight and self accountability, which at first blush is ironic as Bryant started out in state-wide politics as State Auditor. Once upon a time the State Auditor’s Office actually had a fair amount of auditors in several different divisions from Higher Education to local school districts. The auditing these folks did was very good though I’ll grant they tended to over-audit. Through time the capacity to conduct audits at the OSA has diminished to the extent where I think everything is now contracted out to private firms. The audit quality is very uneven.
I mention this because the type of fraud revealed by the Sun Herald yesterday is fairly easily caught in a well designed audit but I think it also illustrates the environment that Walker perceived he was operating to so blatantly split purchases to steer work. We also now have a window on how County Government operated because the first set of preliminary findings included County procurements including this blurb on the Hancock County Board of Supervisors: Continue reading DMR Scandal day 53: The bucks are beginning to stop.
As the scandal at DMR spreads across South Mississippi’s largely Republican political elites with the latest revelations of potential criminal misconduct by DMR Executive Director Bill Walker by the Sun Herald one naturally wonders why Governor Phil Bryant has chosen to sit on his hands leaving Walker in office.
If this had been a school secretary embezzling a few thousand dollars from the Student Activity Fund or a secretary at (insert name of state agency) doing same that person would be, at the minimum put on a leave of absence while the investigation sorted all the dirty deeds out. If you are a political appointee of Bryant on the other hand you get to keep your job and search for a graceful exit.
The latest revelation that Congressman Steven Palazzo’s father was involved in one of the OIG properties illustrate the breadth of the unfolding scandal, which literally stretches from coastal Mississippi straight to the Capitol City. If there is an honest GOP politician in Jackson the unwashed masses have yet to hear from ’em.
Let’s use some excerpts of the OIG report on DMR’s land acquisitions to illustrate why the taxpayer paid appraisals obtained by the Bay Waveland School Board as cover for their friends and family program are not worth the paper they are written on. First up we need to know what the OIG auditors did and they well explain it:
You see folks, the auditors may have had specific information that DMR Director Bill Walker and his assistant Tina Shumate were looting the program for their personal gain but going in blank they would have noticed a ton of red flags. Preliminary procedures would include comparing the real estate valuations (appraisals) against tax roll appraised values. Drilling down into the appraisal report themselves for those transactions that had large variances would include evaluating the appraiser’s work product against professional standards in the field. The OIG was kind enough to identify for us 15 requirements and best practices and summarize how each DMR transaction failed at least 4 of those 15 best practices/requirements: Continue reading Let’s drill down on the OIG report on DMR’s friends and family program to expose fatal flaws in the appraisals obtained by the Bay Waveland School District in the Bay Tech Building Scandal
I have a series of posts coming on the family and friends programs at both the DMR and the Bay-Waveland School District so today I begin with that preliminary US Department of the Interior Office of the Inspector General report on the problems at DMR. The twist is that I’m going to use that report to highlight the inherently flawed purchase of the Bay Tech Building by the Bay-Waveland School Board. In this series of posts I’m completely in my field of expertise as an auditor and hopefully I’ll set off a few light bulbs. First let’s do a quick review on the OIG report on the DMR family and friends program aka CIAP.
The DMR scandal broke on October 25 with reporting by the Sun Herald the Investigative Division of the Office of the State Auditor were at the Bolton Building in Biloxi going through Director Bill Walker’s office. The story that came from officialdom was that investigators were following up on a somewhat routine US DOI OIG audit of the Coastal Impact Assistance Program that found major problems in how DMR was running the program. The OIG audit, an unusual occurrence absent a major wasting of tax dollars or suspected criminal activity, was described in different terms by the folks at State Auditor’s office that claimed it was because the federal agency administering the program was changing. I do not believe that for a second personally as I firmly believe a dime was dropped. (I’ll explain more on that next week)
In any event the folks at the various OIG offices are auditors and since I’m an auditor by trade with a bit of practical experience let’s recreate some of the events through the eyes of an auditor.
First thing we have to do is figure out exactly what in the heck were looking at because the folks at OIG are not walking encyclopedias of compliance requirements related to the thousands of federal programs out there but luckily for us we have the internet so my first stop would be “The Catalog” aka the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, specifically CFDA #15.426 Coastal Impact Assistance Program and a close second would be the enabling legislation, which contains this: Continue reading Office of Inspector General report on the DMR friends and family program lends insight into the flawed appraisals obtained in the Bay Tech Building Scandal
I guess it is time to crank things back up after Thanksgiving. I had the dessert cart this year and kept things kid friendly making Lemon squares, Blonde brownies along with the traditional pumpkin pie. Since Pizza buns were a hit with the kid set last year we tried Stuffed pizza this year and it is a keeper. While everyone works off all the good eats here are several links of interest:
Wanna work people up and get them good and mad? Kill and mutilate a few dolphins as the Sun Herald editorial board explains. The panel of marine experts in the Slabbed nation seem to think a local shrimper has gone postal.
Next up is another editorial from the Sun Herald that is extraordinary in respects on the taxpayer funded land graft at the DMR where they joined Slabbed in calling for a federal investigation. Judging from the murmurs coming from the peanut gallery we’re both a bit late to that party and that is not a bad thing per se. The DMR withholding public documents from reporter Karen Nelson is beyond disgraceful but about par for the course. That said where there is a will there is a way as the information is out there.
Next up we go way back to early November for the fake cover of Paula Broadwell’s book on former CIA director Petraeus as reported by ABC affiliate in Denver. The Youtube embed below is thus worth the watch.
Next up is Hurricane Sandy as people are still yammering about it in the news and social media. Slabbed is feeling the love too as google is leading people who are now being shafted by their insurance companies to our exhaustive Katrina wind water legal dispute archives. That topic after all, is where the Slabbed’s moniker originates so the extra traffic fits. But alas these days hazard mitigation is on my mind and the post Sandy media landscape is having that discussion as well so along those lines I chuckled when a reader emailed this New York Times story on Sandy featuring Dauphin Island Alabama, the undisputed repetitive loss champion of the US. The piece featured all the usual suspects and special interests that Slabbed has skewered from time to time along with former skeweree turned friend to the Slabbed Nation Western Carolina U professor Rob Young. This snippet from the story sums things up on the topic: Continue reading Post holiday news miscellany
Like the systemic political corruption in Jefferson Parish, the unfolding scandal at the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is like a cheap sweater in that one loose thread has been pulled and now the whole thing is unraveling. As Karen Nelson at the Sun Herald has reported on each new out house transaction, I sense a growing public outrage, especially now that a not for profit organization with a previously sterling reputation has emerged as a co-conspirator to what strongly appears to be illegal acts involving DMR Director Bill Walker and his son Scott. Tina Shumate, the person at DMR in charge of the Coastal Impact Assistance Program is also neck deep in the cesspool doing real estate deals with her parents with public money and it is with Tina’s
parents brother that we’ll start as she is no ordinary legacy political hack stinking up state government as her daddy brother Curt Hebert is an expert in wallowing in the crony capitalism cesspool dating to his disastrous run as head of the US Federal Energy Regulatory Agency, which in reality regulated nothing expect the lining of their own pockets:
Hebert, a former Mississippi utility regulator who is often regarded as a protégé of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), was named chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) by President George W. Bush in January 2001. A Republican, Hebert was first nominated to FERC in 1997 by former President Bill Clinton. During Hebert’s tenure, FERC has been criticized for being too laissez faire, and Hebert’s critics accuse him of being a free market ideologue.
Indeed it was under Hebert’s watch that ENRON price gouged west coast power consumers by manipulating power supplies, causing rolling blackouts and other disruptions that allowed ENRON to profit mightily from selling electricity into the contrived power shortage. Hebert is an expert in Mississippi style crony capitalism and it appears his
daughter sister well learned at his side how to slop at the trough.
What I am gonna do today is link the Sun Herald reporting for those that want to catch up and call bull on DMR Director Bill Walker’s assertion the OIG showing up at his office late last Summer is somehow routine. A state agency seeing someone from the State Auditors Office is routine though it appears the Auditor’s office, as it concerns DMR corruption, has been asleep at the switch for many years and in my opinion their Johnny-come-lately appearance on the DMR scene is to ascertain the extent of the scandal so it can be contained as I have no faith Governor Phil Bryant wants to see this scandal exposed since it involves so many of his supporters.
But before I get to those links everyone needs to know what a questioned cost is as I get the feeling many people think it is an auditor raising their hand saying, “Oh ohh I got a question about this cost!” as that could not be further from the truth. Continue reading The Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain helps DMR Director Bill Walker buy his son’s property. A DMR friends and family program update.
I was there on business just a few weeks ago and actually know a few of the inhabitants. I mention this because the Sun Herald has a connection or two there as well as Donna Harris and photojournalist John Fitzhugh showed up yesterday at Bolton while a few folks from the investigative division of the State Auditor’s office were holed up in DMR executive director Bill Walker’s office going through his files and computer hard disks.
Naturally the rumor mill is going full tilt and I shook the tree to get the low down, which I did on an off the record basis. As the comments to Harris’ story illustrate, most everyone knows Bill Walker has double dealt most every chance he’s had while at DMR enriching himself and his cronies at the taxpayer trough for years. There was the Cedar Point land swindle involving David Harris and Ben Stone funded by the Jackson County taxpayers for instance. More recently we have Walker and DMR playing Santa Claus for Harris on a sweat heart land deal to create green space on the Ocean Springs waterfront, bailing Harris out of a previously money losing investment with taxpayer funded largess. And since the oil spill we’ve watched Walker try to get control over Mississippi’s portion of the BP fines via the DMR, no doubt with an eye towards self enrichment as that issue almost scuttled his renomination as DMR Director earlier this year.
Let’s be clear, the Investigators with the OSA are not the FBI and the OSA typically pursues civil rather than criminal remedies. That said I do not think they’ll have to look very hard to figure out what DMR is about in its new role as Santa to the politically connected. To the extent Walker is highly connected in statewide GOP circles, the fact this investigation was green lit by the powers that be is telling. Stay tuned.