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.
The same article quotes Auditor Pickering as saying the indictments which resulted from his office’s year long investigation “speak for themselves”. Indeed they do because the results of said investigation resulted in charges that a handful of former employees padded up their travel by $175 and others by slightly larger amounts. The total of the public funds at stake from these indictments approximates $5,000. I absolutely agree with Auditor Pickering these indictments do indeed “speak for themselves”. The words that comes to mind is pathetic given the resources expended by Auditor Pickering’s Office on both the investigation and defending the Sun Herald’s public records lawsuit, which his office lost.
As a seasoned observer I’d caution the general public against expecting any other criminal charges in this matter, state or federal because I do not see anything else coming given the length of the investigation and the indictments unsealed to date. If it happens I’ll be greatly surprised.
None of this means there isn’t more to come because there always is more to come in these type matters. The depth of the ethical compromises at the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, which allowed itself to become party to a transaction which has resulted in criminal indictments will certainly be revealed for instance. Going along to get along is the first step down a slippery slope to the “mudhole” and that is exactly where Executive Director Judy Steckler has lead the organization, which once enjoyed a sterling reputation for the environmental work the Land Trust did in service to the community. To the extent the Walker’s political influence stretched across the coast there is much “mudhole” potential here.