Mississippi DMR selling boats it received from ex-director's foundation

June 24, 2013 

The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is selling two recreational fishing boats that are part of an ongoing investigation.

The DMR sought bids on the 36-foot Topaz and the 42-foot Californian in an ad published Friday in the Sun Herald.

DMR leased the boats for a while from the Mississippi Marine Resources Foundation, which was set up by former Executive Director Bill Walker. The foundation obtained them from the Mississippi Gulf Coast YMCA.

DMR spent more than $1.46 million on the boats since 2007 even though it did not own them until at least April. That's when state Auditor Stacey Pickering said the Foundation was taking steps to transfer ownership to the DMR.

The Foundation apparently is being investigated by state and federal authorities.

"This is an ongoing investigation on the civil and criminal side," Pickering said when he announced the transfer of the boats. "It is multi-faceted and very complicated and when you're dealing with multiple years, financial documents, details you're going through, foundation money as well as federal grant dollars and multiple state agencies involved, this is a very complicated investigation."

Walker, who was fired by the DMR's governing board earlier this year, denies any wrongdoing.

Bids will be accepted until 3 p.m. July 15. Bids will be opened and read at the Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources meeting July 16.

According to the ad, bids must be submitted by mail or in person to Department of Marine Resources, Attn: Tom Doster, Administrative Services, 1141 Bayview Avenue, Biloxi, MS 39530. Detailed specifications are on file at the DMR office and may be obtained by calling Doster at 374-5000.

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