BILOXI -- The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources has an agreement with a firm to conduct a 60-day review of the troubled agency's finances, structure, staffing, work flow and government program compliance.
DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller told the Sun Herald on Wednesday that the agency has signed a deal with Horne LLP, a CPA firm with offices in Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. Horne's contract with DMR will specify the job won't exceed $150,000.
The DMR is also working on another agreement with another CPA firm.
Miller said when he was named as head of the agency last month, he would initiate a comprehensive 60-day review of the DMR's spending practices and structure, and the firms will help with the financial part of that.
"You need a road map of where this agency needs to be and a timeline of when we'll get there," Miller said. "That's what they'll help us do."
The deal with Horne also includes a communications element, which will be handled by Frontier Gulf Coast, a Mississippi company that does political consulting, public relations and advertising, among other jobs. The company will help communicate the work the CPA firms are doing in a manner the agency's employees and the public can understand. Miller said they'll be paid by Horne under the deal.
Horne and another CPA firm, Nicholson and Company PLLC, will work with the Mississippi State Auditor's Office on the review and the parties have already been discussing how to carry it out.
Their ideas about changes to DMR will be presented to the Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources, which oversees DMR, at a meeting in June.
The talks with Nicholson, which has offices in Hattiesburg and Gulfport, among other locations, are nearly finished, Miller said. He's pushing for a clause in their contract that their portion of the job won't exceed $50,000.
Horne and Nicholson were selected out of a field of five other Mississippi CPA firms, Miller said.
Gov. Phil Bryant selected Miller to head DMR after previous Director Bill Walker was fired in January amid ongoing state and federal investigations. The State Auditor's Office and Federal Bureau of Investigation are both investigating the agency's management under Walker, who had headed DMR since 2002. Walker has denied wrongdoing.
As part of the 60-day review, the new director has also had individual meetings with about 80 of the agency's 146 employees and contract workers. Miller is in the process of determining whether employees are in the proper jobs at the agency and that job descriptions are correct, among other issues, he said.