BILOXI, Miss.–Your tax dollars were seriously misspent, according to a report from the Office of the Inspector General after looking into goings on at the Dept. of Marine Resources. Monday the OIG’s final report on the DMR was released and it appears to justify the heads that rolled.
Former executive director Bill Walker was fired by the Commission on Marine Resources and employee Tina Shumate resigned after it came to light that land deals made by the DMR were steered in favor of the families and friends of those employees, said the report. That included land bought from Shumate’s parents and nearly $4 million spent on Harbor Landing, a yacht club owned by a friend of Walker.
In all, the OIG said there was over $12 million in bad spending that included inflated appraisals aimed at overvaluing land that tax money (DMR funds) was used to purchase.
The agency is still not completely in compliance, but new DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller said the agency is working on it.
“While most issues have been resolved, MDMR will work with Fish and Wildlife Services to make sure all OIG issues are addressed and CIAP projects are administered correctly,” said a release from DMR.
“We are glad to have the final audit report,” said Miller. “We can now move forward correcting issues identified by the OIG in our grant administration and oversight.”
While both Walker and Shumate have told media they have done nothing wrong, Walker’s wife, Sharon, is also the subject of the investigation for $8 million in grants spent through the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and its Ocean Expo project. That agency has denied any misspending.
Miller has acknowledged that his department has some tough times ahead regaining the public’s trust, but has promised transparency from here out.