Auditor seeks federal court' OK to release DMR records

ASSOCIATED PRESSDecember 5, 2013 

GULFPORT -- State Auditor Stacey Pickering asked a federal court Thursday to authorize the release of state Department of Marine Resources records the Sun Herald is seeking.

Pickering's motion, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Gulfport, is in response to an order by Harrison County Chancery Judge Jennifer Schloegel.

The Sun Herald has been fighting Pickering for the records. On Wednesday, Schloegel ordered the documents turned over to the paper by Monday. She had issued a similar order in October.

Pickering had argued a federal subpoena prevented his releasing documents seized from the DMR during a corruption investigation. Schloegel disagreed.

Pickering's motion Thursday also sought guidance from the federal court because the records had been used for a federal grand jury.

The Sun Herald sued Pickering for access to the records, which his office had seized from the DMR as part of an ongoing state and federal investigation of the agency.

The newspaper asked Schloegel to hold Pickering and his office in civil contempt of court for failing to turn over records it has sought. The judge has not ruled on that motion.

Schloegel will hear more arguments on the issue today.

Pickering had argued the records are exempt from disclosure under an exception to the state Public Records Act. He has said the case involves sensitive information about alleged wrongdoing at the DMR under its former executive director, Bill Walker.

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