Editorials

Bill Walker needs to hold himself accountable for his actions — and pay up

‘There will be no more Shuckers’ games in our future,’ Scott Walker says

Scott Walker explains that he and his father, former DMR head Bill Walker, will no longer hold season tickets to Biloxi Shuckers baseball games. Both Walkers owe substantial restitution for fraud against the government.
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Scott Walker explains that he and his father, former DMR head Bill Walker, will no longer hold season tickets to Biloxi Shuckers baseball games. Both Walkers owe substantial restitution for fraud against the government.

Thank you, federal Judge Keith Starrett, Assistant U.S. Attorney Wesley Webb and Senior Probation Officer Justin Crowe.

Without their diligence, the taxpayers likely would not have learned how much Bill and Scott Walker have paid (or didn’t pay) toward their fines and restitution as part of the Department of Marine Resources scandal.

Walker created what federal investigators called a culture of corruption at the agency charged with protecting the Mississippi Coast’s marine ecosystem. We found it particularly galling that a scientist would use that ecosystem as his private playground under the guise of research.

He disguised the outfitting of two pleasure boats as charitable work to play in that playground. And that wasn’t his only crime, not his only awful behavior.

And, he got caught.

So now the Walkers collectively owe hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government for their crimes. Scott has paid more than his father, Bill, but he owes much more.

His father hasn’t been holding up his end of the bargain. Of the $572,689 he was ordered to pay in restitution, he has paid about $10,000.

“This is real money,” the judge hold him. “This is real money the taxpayers are out and the court feels strongly it should be repaid.”

We, and the readers who have called asking why the money has not been repaid, agree. Bill Walker has not been making a good faith effort to repay and the judge saw through his excuses.

Bill Walker and his wife, Sharon, bring in more than $16,000 a month is pension and Social Security benefits. He argued that he can’t afford the minimum of $5,000 a month demanded by the court.

To see how ridiculous that argument is, the Walkers are making more than $198,000 a year. The median household income in Jackson County, where they live, is $49,158 and in Harrison County, where the headquarters of the Department of Marine Resources, the agency Bill Walker ran until he was fired, it is $43,095.

And the money he siphoned away from the DMR was money, in the agency’s own words, was supposed to be used for “enhancing, protecting and conserving marine interests of the state.”

But rather than repay that money, he maintained, by median income standards, a lavish lifestyle. That was a bad decision.

This was no victimless, white-collar crime. He damaged the reputation of the agency.

And so, he’s sitting in a prison cell, waiting to learn Oct. 1 hearing where he’ll learn how much more time he’ll spend in prison.

Walker told the judge, he’s “totally committed” to paying what he owes. We hope, he has learned this lesson but we’ll be skeptical until he makes a good faith effort, even if it means making do without a maid and a luxury car.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.
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