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:
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.
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.”
According to sources familiar with the tragedy that would be the suicide of Michaela Hill, Bill Walker’s secretary on August 18, 2012, weeks before the OIG issued their DMR friends and family preliminary report. Those same sources indicate to Slabbed certain elements of Hill’s family harbor strong feelings toward her former boss, the reasons for which have since bubbled up on these pages along with the Topix Forums and the Sun Herald.
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.
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:
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.