MCMR to discuss DMR personnel issues Friday

klnelson@sunherald.comDecember 27, 2012 

BILOXI -- The state Commission on Marine Resources is set to hold a special meeting at 3 p.m. today to discuss "personnel matters," but does not plan to take specific action, according to two commissioners.

The commission is appointed by the governor to oversee the state's Department of Marine Resources, whose spending practices have come into question recently.

The CMR held a lengthy closed-door talk Dec. 18 on issues arising from ongoing investigations of the DMR.

After two hours and 23 minutes, the commission said it didn't have enough information to make any decisions.

The CMR asked state attorneys to gather more information, commissioners Shelby Drummond and Jimmy Taylor said Thursday. They said they expect the topic of today's meeting to be the attorneys' reply. However, the Associated Press reported the commission could decide Executive Director Bill Walker's future at the meeting, announced Thursday and to be held in Biloxi.

This meeting also likely will be closed to the public, Taylor said.

Lauren Thompson, DMR's public relations director, made it clear Thursday it was the commission and not the DMR that called the special meeting and set the agenda. But it was a press release from Thompson that stated "personnel matters" as the reason.

"What this meeting is for is to discuss and try to get in

formation and try to follow up on what was reported in the (Sun) Herald," Taylor said Thursday. "We asked certain things of the attorneys for the DMR and asked them to provide it at the meeting tomorrow and that's what we'll be looking at.

"We can't make decisions based on what's in the newspaper, we have to get facts. We're affecting people's lives."

The DMR is the focus of an investigation by the State Auditor's Office and an audit by the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Interior Department. The federal review, which the Sun Herald reported in October, is looking at how DMR spends Coastal Impact Assistance Program funding from the federal government for conservation measures. The State Auditor's Office has issued no comment on the state's investigation.

The CMR also has questions about the function of a Marine Resources Foundation, which DMR Executive Director Bill Walker also directs.

Taylor said the meeting was moved to this afternoon from Thursday because CMR Chairman Vernon Asper was delayed in returning to South Mississippi from a trip to the East Coast.

Taylor said he's aware the meeting will be late in the afternoon going into a holiday weekend.

"It doesn't matter. We don't really care," Taylor said. "It's important and it's important enough for us to have it on a Friday evening.

"We have some concerns we want to address."

Today's meeting will in the auditorium of the Bolton State Building, 1141 Bayview Ave., in Biloxi.

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