Asper out at the Commission on Marine Resources

He resigned yesterday. The final OIG report was certainly the catalyst for the move.

Slabbed New Media wishes Dr. Asper well in his future endeavors.

See why it is time for Vern and pals to go, know what I mean?

Behold the terrible price of unbridled greed!

Inspector general audit questions millions in CIAP grants at DMR ~ Anita Lee and Paul Hampton

Unfortunately the piece does not have the actual draft report but it is safe to say this is what happens when a gaggle of uninterested stooges, distracted by toys and freebie deep sea fishing trips comprises the Board of Directors of any entity. In fact dysfunctional Boards of Directors are the norm in these situations.  And when a Federal Auditor issues a finding and question cost, that does not mean the auditor has a question about something. Rather it is the first and most important step in making a (sub)grantee gone bad pay misspent money back.  The Commission of Marine Resources, per their power under the Mississippi Code, had to approve each and every one of these specious transactions.  Just like with the Housing Authority of Jefferson Parish, given what we know about the extent of the problems, the odds of having to pay back massive sums of money back are overwhelming. In that respect it matters not the audit is not final.

Today’s cost to the taxpayers of Mississippi: $30 $12 million dollars.

The IG evidently had a little something for everyone, even my peeps in the land of Dizzy Dean:

A grant totaling about $1 million, including $788,300 added through an amendment, has been designated for the Old Wire Road Trail Project in Stone County, a 20-mile asphalt trail along an old telegraph line. Stone County, the audit says, “is a land-locked county not designated as an eligible recipient for CIAP grants.”

Stone County’s grant consultant, Nell Murray, also serves as a commissioner for the Heritage Area, as did six others who either managed or potentially benefited from CIAP money, the audit says. Murray could not be reached to comment.

There is one Slabbed reader that, when I point out something way in the inside or drop a major stink bomb, will contact me and the greeting is laughter. Welp folks, I can envision this conversation:

Hehehehehehehe Nell Murray Hehehehehehehe

Nell have a conflict of interest??? Who wudda thunk such a thing? Continue reading “See why it is time for Vern and pals to go, know what I mean?”

Time to go, know what I mean Vern?

For the second time the Sun Herald has called for a complete house cleaning at the Commission of Marine Resources, a subject which Slabbed has reserved judgment upon until very recently.  With the release of the Horne CPA Group report on the internal control structure of the very troubled Department of Marine Resources it is abundantly clear the very people charged with overseeing the agency and its governance were completely derelict in the discharge of that duty. The taxpayers will get stuck with the bill.

Since the scandal broke the consistent theme from the Commission on Marine Resources has been a Sergeant Schultzian “I know nothing” and I think the gang is being 100% truthful saying that.  It betrays the fact they were simple rubber stamps for Bill Walker.  Later they continued in their role of lackey, this time for Phil Bryant as they conducted the charade of an open hiring process for DMR Executive Director that landed Jamie Miller at DMR.

Another word for a rubber stamp board, Godfather style, is “buffers” and that is the real purpose of the Commission on Marine Resources which is to give the man really responsible for the operation of State Government, the Governor, cover when his cronies are caught with their hands in the cookie jar.  The Board members will point to the fact they are essentially volunteering their time to this state agency and that is true enough.  However it is equally true they are an expensive bunch of volunteers to support with the taxpayer funded freebie deep sea fishing trips and all the other toys that also come with the turf.

This goes way beyond a money issue though money to fund the agency is certainly the topic de jour.  The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, as it is currently structured, is constructed to fail. Since the Governor is really calling the shots, the Commission on Marine Resources should be eliminated, or a new board constructed and empowered to provide proper oversight free from political interference from Jackson save for the power of appointment.  I am not so naive to think the latter will ever happen so the chop shop it is.  There is no way this bunch of bumbling lackeys will ever regain the public’s trust.

Finally I’m certainly aware there is huge uncertainty among the worker bees at DMR, the vast majority of whom are still discharging their job duties at a high level despite the circus show like atmosphere iternerate to hosting monthly an oversight board of know nothing stooges.  At this point in time there should be no reason the agency should not have a firm grasp of exactly where it stands financially.  This needs to be clearly communicated to the employees so the uncertainty is minimized.

He so lucky……

Yep he sho’ is:

Why is he lucky?  Because there no time for me to dissect the report on DMR’s operations today. I’ve read the reader comments left here on same and am amused professionally. CPAs always write “to the inside” and the Horne CPA Group report is no different. Did anyone find the problems Slabbed uncovered in the artificial reef program mentioned? It is not in there by name but it is in there folks.

I caution the readers about substituting their judgments on risk assessment for Horne’s though I will not illustrate why right now in the interest of time. I did make sure the part I thought was most important made it out on Twitter yesterday and I see Paul Hampton got the takeaway and included it at the end of his comprehensive piece on yesterday’s developments.

This review is a damning portrait of the Bill Walker tenure at DMR so how about another lovely song. Continue reading “He so lucky……”

Mississippi Department of Marine Resources open thread

This topic has been something of a red headed step child since early last month. I was glad to see the gang in officialdom has taken several of my suggestions as DMR is now crawling with auditors and consultants from two Mississippi CPA firms. I happen to know Shareholders/Partners at both firms, both of which have very good reputations for producing quality work. The firm from Hattiesburg, Nicholson and Company is very active in GOP political circles and I suspect the same is true of Horne in the Jackson area.

We’ve had hirings, firings and retirements including the subject of Slabbed’s brother in law deal reef expose that have caused lots of chatter, including the recent hiring of Kelly Lucas as Chief Science Officer at DMR.

Back to those suggestions Slabbed made, one that we can’t take any credit for is hiring the political PR firm to communicate the “good word” to the public  at a cost of $50,000 in lieu of the seasoned professionals at Horne and Nicholson and Company, who I can attest first hand are possessive of excellent communications skills in their own right.  So Slabbed today issues a BOLO for astroturfers on news stories etc on topic to DMR because that is part of what these political PR firms do.

In any event feel free to add anything DMR related in comments.

DMR Scandal Day 136: “In God we trust, all others we audit.” Not…..

In God we trust, all others we audit. ~ Former State Auditor Phil Bryant.

It was massive accounting frauds at ENRON and WorldCom that led to government regulation of large swaths of the CPA profession and deservedly so I’ll add.  For instance at ENRON there was an ossified, ineffectual Board of Directors stacked with politically connected phonies like Senator Phil Gramm’s wife Wendy, an economist that could rationalize about anything. At DMR, by their own admission we have a Board of Trustees that had no clue what was going on and who evidently did not bother to engage their jobs beyond the free boat rides, fishing trips etc.  When the people that are supposed to be running the show are asleep at the switch bad things happen as we found out at ENRON and now DMR.

ENRON used off balance sheet special purpose entities or (SPE in accounting lingo) as a major vehicle for much of the criminal activity that occurred   DMR director Bill Walker created an off books foundation that sucked all manner of tax dollars away from DMR’s  mission to support the boats Walker used to wine and dine everyone on the taxpayer dime and lord knows what else.

And speaking of what else I detailed some of it as it relates to Hancock County’s role in the CIAP disaster.  None of these schemes are particularly innovative and in fact are of the in your face variety.  When there is no oversight to begin with why bother with the bells and whistles of a complex corruption enterprise like the one Aaron Broussard created in Jefferson Parish. Lest I digress.

Governor Phil should well remember from his time as State Auditor that in 1992  the Governmental Accounting Standards Board issued GASB Statement 14, The Financial Reporting Entity under which Billy Walker’s Private Foundation certainly fell.  Yet here is Walker with his own private slush fund buying millions of dollars of fishing boats and lord knows what else and no one knew anything about it.  The question ladies and gents is what does this say about the level of oversight at these state agencies?  Simple folks, despite Governor Phil serially saying for years at speaking engagements “In God we trust, all others we audit”, nobody was auditing his coast based political cronies at DMR, or even worse if someone did audit them there is an audit failure of massive proportion. It is just that bad folks but we already know all this from months ago.

And all those days ago seeing where this would end up was too predictable:

DMR hasn’t been audited by the state in over 10 years ~ Michael Newsom Continue reading “DMR Scandal Day 136: “In God we trust, all others we audit.” Not…..”

DMR Scandal Day 80: This is too rich…….:-)

There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don’t know. ~ Ambrose Bierce

Folks we all gotta take off our hats to the DMR Beat Team at the Sun Herald because the gang is doing a great job, especially in today’s day and age of the local newsroom cut to the bone by absentee investor owned chains like the Sun Herald’s McClatchy that struggle under massive corporate debtloads.  Bad times in the newspaper industry are no secret but the Sun Herald’s reporting on the unfolding scandal at DMR should remind us all of the societal value of high quality investigative journalism.

I mention this because often times one has to often read between the lines in a straight news story to fully understand the situation the reporter(s) is (are) trying to convey.  Today it does not take much reading to figure out the Sun Herald would love to fully flesh out this entire DMR topic but they feel stymied.  Here’s a long winded explanation why.

Today’s top story on DMR by Anita Lee and Karen Nelson on Bill Walker’s Foundation is mostly a recap of previous reporting  dating back to December 8, 2012.  That said it had a few new quotes from CMR Chairman Vernon Asper and yes, he comes across as clueless Billy Walker tool, which he surely was considering he chaired the Commission on Marine Resources yet evidently knew next to nothing about what was going on at the agency.  This in turn is a massive breach of Asper’s fiduciary duty as Chairman of the CMR but we need to circle that for now.  It also had quotes from emails involving Bill Walker’s son Scott arranging one of those taxpayer funded fishin’ trips with representatives of an engineering firm out of Mobile, Thompson Engineering.  It was nice to see the taxpayers bought beer and that Pascagoula Mayor and fellow crony capitalist Robbie Maxwell has entered into the equation.  Maxwell, Pascagoula’s part time Mayor is as bad as Bill Walker folks, maybe even worse IMHO.

As bad as this is, and believe me what Phil Bryant’s coastal political cronies have done is very bad, none of this is new and Gov Phil, better than anyone should know exactly what I’m talking about as he was state auditor when it all came down: ENRON.

It was massive accounting frauds at ENRON and WorldCom that led to government regulation of large swaths of the CPA profession and deservedly so I’ll add.  For instance at ENRON there was an ossified, ineffectual Board of Directors stacked with politically connected phonies like Senator Phil Gramm’s wife Wendy, an economist that could rationalize about anything. At DMR, by their own admission we have a Board of Trustees that had no clue what was going on and who evidently did not bother to engage their jobs beyond the free boat rides, fishing trips etc.  When the people that are supposed to be running the show are asleep at the switch bad things happen as we found out at ENRON and now DMR.

ENRON used off balance sheet special purpose entities or (SPE in accounting lingo) as a major vehicle for much of the criminal activity that occurred   DMR director Bill Walker created an off books foundation that sucked all manner of tax dollars away from DMR’ mission to support the boats Walker used to wine and dine everyone on the taxpayer dime and lord knows what else. Continue reading “DMR Scandal Day 80: This is too rich…….:-)”

DMR Scandal day 59: Like I said Billy Walker has pictures on ’em

Trinity Walker new wifey to Scott Walker / Sun Herald

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.

DMR charters fishing trips in South Mississippi for lawmakers, others ~ Michael Newsom

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:

Connections: Neighbors, relatives and politicians land DMR jobs in South Mississippi ~ Karen Nelson and Anita Lee Continue reading “DMR Scandal day 59: Like I said Billy Walker has pictures on ’em”

DMR Scandal Day 55: My guess is Bill Walker has pictures on ’em

‘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!

Governor Phil Bryant remains in hiding.

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.”