Laying down their cards: “What’s next with DMR investigations?”

Yesterday Paul Hampton and Karen Nelson teamed up in a What’s Next with DMR piece for the Sunday Sun Herald and in it the paper laid a few cards down on the table.  You see folks, I have a source that has been pretty accurate for certain aspects of the DMR investigation and one of the last things this person shared with me was that the public records that are subject to the Sun Herald’s lawsuit against DMR that were subsequently subpoenaed by the US Attorney to thwart the paper getting access to them contained absolutely no smoking guns or evidence of additional illegal activity.

If that is the case then the natural question that comes to mind is exactly WTF Stacey Pickering and company are doing defying the orders of Chancery Court Judge Jennifer Schloegel to turn those records over for the inspection by the Sun Herald.  Yesterday when the Sun Herald laid a couple cards down it also confirmed something else the same source mentioned to me, namely that many of the documents sought by the Sun Herald were already in their possession via leak.  Here is the salient excerpt:

But through records leaked to the newspaper, the Sun Herald learned about a few things Walker bought through the fund — a $27,500 sponsorship for the 11th National Conference on Science, Policy and the Environment in Washington, D.C.; a work computer for the daughter of a friend and neighbor employed by the DMR; and the hiring of special contract workers.

Nothing in the above indicates illegal activity IMHO, perhaps a wasting of tax dollars but nothing illegal on its face.  Worth noting is these records have been gathering dust for almost a year and evidently neither the State or Feds had done anything with them until the Sun Herald gained court ordered access. This is another factor as to why that Federal subpoena for those public records is such a curiosity. Continue reading “Laying down their cards: “What’s next with DMR investigations?””

Inside the investigation: Who tattooed Scott Walker’s mortgage on the lot that DMR purchased via the Land Trust

Vital background via Anita Lee can be found here.

The land deal closed 12 days before Scott Walker’s final, lump-sum payment was due on a loan at Merchants & Marine Bank, Jackson County land records show.

Walker had used the property in July 2008 as collateral on a $310,590 loan, which called for monthly payments of $2,775. The balance and all interest payments were due July 25, 2011, although the terms did allow for loan extension or modification.

Tattoo? I heard that word most from investment bankers doing M&A work a decade or so ago. Tatoos are not easily removed, especially those given a bank by a family member to induce the extension of credit to someone that is not otherwise creditworthy enough on their own to nab a $310,590 loan.

Stay tuned.

We have a final IG report on the DMR Coastal Impact Program

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:

Final OIG Report on CIAP Capture 1

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. Continue reading “We have a final IG report on the DMR Coastal Impact Program”

DMR Scandal Day 122: Sun Herald reports Tina Shumate the catalyst for DMR purchase of former DMR Executive Director’s son’s lot

Anita Lee is a champ as she and Karen Nelson tag team the next installment of as The Land Trust Turns.  In what turns out to be a weird cosmic twist of fate, I too spoke with Melanie Allen with the Land Trust in her capacity as an individual board member not speaking for the Entire Board of Directors or organization. The information she conveyed to me greatly enhanced my understanding of the events surrounding the purchase of Scott Walker’s lot by the Land Trust, acting in the role of financial intermediary for DMR at the behest of CIAP Administrator Tina Shumate, also on the Land Trust Board of Directors.  There was one question that Ms Allen could not answer for me but before I get to that I want to emphasize the Land Trust Board is taking this very seriously and have engaged the issues the transaction has brought to the fore.

That said it is also true the same board still contain a cancerous element because the people at the top of the Land Trust have/had financial relationships with DMR. Let’s start with the comment I just left on Anita’s story:

Absolutely these financial relationships were ignored in their decision making. The majority of the board allowed themselves to be led down the primrose path by people with a financial stake at DMR. And there is no doubt they had to know the connection between the seller and DMR.

The question they should have asked themselves is, if the money were not being provided to do this deal, would we buy this parcel over the lot next door that was still relatively pristine? The money being provided to make the deal work was a red flag.

And that perception dates back to the fact set I highlighted back on day 99:

A reader that knows the lay of the land at the Land Trust sent me a few of the connections to Walker on the Land Trust’s Board of Directors as the reasons for the organization conspiring with Walker to allegedly perpetrate a crime comes into sharper focus:

Laura Bowie – Board President; works in an office in the DMR Bolton building at the pleasure of Bill Walker. She is paid by a different group.

In that same office is one of Bill’s long time best friends Phil Bass. Bass retired from the state and went to work for the EPA Gulf of Mexico Program. He is on loan from them.

John Bowie – Advisory Committee member, Laura’s husband. Works for the EPA.

Grant Larson – worked for Tina Shumate at the DMR

William Corky Perrett – worked for Bill at the DMR

On Corky Perret, Anita explains the relationship: Continue reading “DMR Scandal Day 122: Sun Herald reports Tina Shumate the catalyst for DMR purchase of former DMR Executive Director’s son’s lot”

DMR Scandal Day 88: Screwing the pooch starring Billy Walker, the FBI and the Chipper

Yesterday Karen Nelson added some color to the unfolding federal investigation into the DMR friends and family program disclosing a few things, one of which we knew in a general sense and one that we did not know. First off is the factoid we did not know:

The Director of the Land Trust for the Coastal Plain, Judy Steckler, appears to have a problem telling the truth about the Land Trust’s involvement as a financial intermediary in the DMR purchase of Former DMR Executive Director Bill Walker’s son Scott’s piece of land on Bayou Porteaux.  Once known as a nonprofit with a sterling reputation the Land Trust has taking a major and well deserved beating for their role in what strongly appears to be a sophisticated, criminal enterprise.  After yesterday’s story I do not see how the Land Trust can keep Ms. Steckler as its executive director but as we saw with the CMR it is possible the Board of Trustees of the Land Trust remains firmly in denial, in the process breaching their fiduciary duty to the organization.

Finally Nelson tells us in detail the FBI’s role in the investigation and one of the leads they are chasing using the same investigative technique the FBI used in the neighborhood canvas.  It appears Bill Walker’s son Scott may need fabled beltway criminal defense attorney Bernie Grimm’s services again as the FBI has taken an interest in the DMR’s purchase of Walker’s lot.  It is not much of a stretch to extrapolate that CIAP director Tina Shumate and her purchase of her parent’s property is also under the same scrutiny.  How Shumate remains at DMR drawing a paycheck defies the imagination.

Next up Michael Newsom takes a stab at the DMR purchase of the old Winn Dixie property in the Pass.  A couple of things stuck out at me the first being that the story photo appears to be the property across the street from the parcel purchased by DMR. Following is an aerial photo of the location with the slab and parking lot of the old Winn Dixie still visible.

Harrison Co Tax Map DMR Winn Dixie Property
Arial photo of the old Pass Winn Dixie property and the lot across Henderson Ave. Source: Harrison County Tax Assessor Online Tax Maps

We’ve been here and done this property on Slabbed way back on November 5 of last year. The Sun Herald protected the identity of the beneficiary of this DMR friends and family program purchase, Jackson based developer Gary Cress in their story. I well remember when the Pass Winn Dixie closed a month or so before Katrina. Cress was planning to develop the parcel into condos. The parcel across Henderson Avenue sold the summer before Hurricane Katrina for $800,000 with an eye toward the same purpose.

The $800,000 parcel on the right, over 3 acres of land, is lower in elevation than the Cress parcel and had never been developed since Hurricane Camille for that reason.  It would seem to fit the DMR criteria for land purchases better than the old Winn Dixie site. It should also be lost on no one that land values on the Mississippi Coast reached their zenith that summer before Katrina as condomania swept the land.  Today the parcel on the right is for sale by owner and I’m guessing the reason it has not sold, despite being on the market close to 7 years, is due to overvaluation associated with the original purchase in the summer of 2005. Continue reading “DMR Scandal Day 88: Screwing the pooch starring Billy Walker, the FBI and the Chipper”

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.”