Rooked: FBI probing Livingston Parish CIAP Land Purchase

Since RFP did the work digging up the old links on Slabbed, a comment bump is in order as the FBI is now poking around a subject Slabbed first reported on a bit more than 2 years ago:

More Mississippi Mud? Louisiana Mud too? Flipping swamplands and CIAP funds? FBI has been asking questions? Say it ain’t so. Oh, and that name seems strangely familiar.

Land deal appraised by tax assessor Barber probed

“Federal authorities have been looking into Madison County Tax Assessor Gerald Barber and his role in a Louisiana land deal that scored almost $3 million in profits for private citizens and a conservation group.

The lynchpin for the deal may have been an apparent inflated appraisal done by Barber’s firm, Barber & Mann Inc., that the U.S. inspector general called “noncompliant” and unreasonably priced in an audit.

See also:

DMR Scandal day 53: The bucks are beginning to stop.

Rooked: Elizabeth Rooks Barber of Barber and Mann exports the DMR friends and family program…

DMR Memorandum lend color to insider purchase of parent’s land with Coastal Impact Funds

This is the defense side of things per Anita Lee’s DMR employee’s South Mississippi home searched circa January 2013.

The DMR paid $245,000 for the lot on a bayou near the Pascagoula River.

Holleman said Shumate removed herself completely from the land transaction. He said her parents, Curt and Ann Hebert, saw the program advertised and approached the DMR about buying the property.

“When her parents got involved, she had nothing to do with it,” Holleman said. “There will be documents that support that.”

I have what I believe to be the documents to which Tim Holleman referred. Continue reading “DMR Memorandum lend color to insider purchase of parent’s land with Coastal Impact Funds”

Rooked: Elizabeth Rooks Barber of Barber and Mann exports the DMR friends and family program…

To my many peeps in the Louisiana chapter of the Slabbed Nation allow me to welcome ya’ll aboard the great CIAP land swindle program.

Livingston Parish owns 2,300 acres in Lake Maurepas

By my calculation it looks as if the taxpayers paid over $1,000/acre for swampland and lake bottoms. The seller was a Mississippi based LLC , now dissolved, owned my Jackson area residents Marion C Davis and Diane Wilks but a nonprofit was apparently used as a financial intermediary. Our readers may recall the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain was used as an intermediary to buy disgraced DMR Director Bill Walker’s son’s property with CIAP funding.

Problem with a Barber and Mann appraisal? Not a problem as Rooks-Barber hubby Gerald Barber is on the Mississippi Appraisal Board. Nice move to have the package all wrapped up in advance huh.

DMR Scandal day 53: The bucks are beginning to stop.

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.”