DMR turns over records to Sun Herald

calee@sunherald.comJanuary 25, 2013 

ANITA LEE/SUN HERALD The Sun Herald picked up a disc contained 22,000 documents this morning from the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources offices in Biloxi. DMR charged the newspaper $395.62 for labor and software to format the records for copying to DVD-R.

ANITA LEE — SUN HERALD Buy Photo

BILOXI -- It took a lawsuit and $395.62 for copies, but the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources finally has turned over financial and related records to the Sun Herald.

The Sun Herald picked up a disc this morning at the Bolton State Office Building with 22,000 pages of records copied onto it.

DMR attorneys agreed to turn over the records before an expedited Chancery Court hearing was held Wednesday morning.

The Sun Herald filed a lawsuit Jan. 16 after DMR denied access to the records, citing the criminal investigations exemption to the public records law. The Sun Herald argued the exemption does not apply because DMR is not a law enforcement agency.

The DMR attorneys also said they could not give the records to the Sun Herald because a Jan. 9 subpoena for the same records from the State Auditor's Office prohibited disclosure. State attorneys went to Circuit Court before Wednesday's hearing to get the subpoena wording modified so the DMR could comply with the Public Records Act and release the records.

The State Auditor's Office subpoenaed thousands of pages of documents from the DMR for a grand jury investigation. The court file on that case, including the subpoenas, is sealed.

The Sun Herald on Friday morning received financial records and related documents from the DMR's Rigs to Reefs and Katrina relief accounts, along with other records.

DMR spending under former Executive Director Bill Walker is under investigation by the auditor's office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The DMR's governing board, the Commission on Marine Resources, voted unanimously Jan. 15 to fire Walker, who had headed the agency since 2002.

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