Indictments issued by both federal and state grand juries Thursday against individuals in the Department of Marine Resources investigation offer some insight into the probe by the State Auditor's Office and the FBI.
The federal indictments were by far the more serious, though they did not include any charges involving Bill Walker's infamous foundation boats.
Investigations by the Sun Herald, as well as the state auditor, found questionable spending of $1.46 million on two recreational fishing boats. The boats were owned by a foundation controlled by the former DMR director, and leased to the state agency.
Dealings with the foundation did result in indictments against Walker, his son Scott, and former DMR Chief of Staff Joe Ziegler that accused them of conspiring to enrich themselves or others with state money.
The state indictments, on the other hand, chose not to indict the DMR's leader, and targeted mostly lower-level employees on charges involving just over $5,000 in total, when the newspaper, and the auditors, had detailed questions of DMR spending that totaled many millions of dollars.
State Auditor Stacey Pickering described the indictments and demands announced Thursday as "one step forward toward restoring the trust of taxpayers, but they do not close the investigation."
We are not certain this has in fact restored trust because it leaves many questions about the DMR unanswered. We remain interested in many other aspects of the investigation that perhaps can be answered by records taken by Pickering and handed over to federal authorities in defiance of a state judge's ruling that they be made available to the public and this newspaper.
The Sun Herald remains committed to pursuing our investigation. Indeed, we think it's possible that our most important coverage is in the future, not the past.
An enormous debt is owed to the many sources who have provided the Sun Herald with documents and other information on the DMR. Their assistance has been helpful in informing the public. We look forward to their continued help.
This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board,which consists of President-Publisher Glen Nardi,Vice President and Executive Editor Stan Tiner,Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Flora S. Point,Audience and Human Resources Director Wanda Howell,Marketing and Interactive Director John McFarland and Associate Editor Tony Biffle. Opinions expressed by columnists, cartoonists and letter writers are their own.