OTHER OPINION: PEER finally lifts veil on port report

On Tuesday, members of the Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review finally agreed to release a report on the state Port of Gulfport they had kept under wraps since June.

As this editorial was being written, the Sun Herald did not yet have a copy.

What we do have is the impression of a governor trying to exert undue influence by the executive branch on PEER, traditionally one of the most independent components of the legislative branch.

PEER’s mandate is “to provide timely, reliable information to the Legislature.” It has the authority to review the work of any state or local entity that receives public funds. It even has subpoena power.

Its work is not and should not be subject to gubernatorial veto or whim.

Yet Gov. Phil Bryant’s spokesman, Mick Bullock, told the Sun Herald on Tuesday, “We’ve never had a problem with the release of the report as long as it is accurate. We have pointed out what we believe to be inaccurate information contained in this report. To our knowledge, we don’t believe it’s been corrected.”

A lot could be read into the word “corrected,” but let us suppose all the governor wants is accuracy. That ought to be achieved by releasing the report and the responses to it by both the Mississippi Development Authority and state port officials.

As PEER Director Max Arinder has said, when disagreement has persisted in the past, the PEER report and a response have been released together.

But for some reason, this particular report has defied normal PEER procedures since June. It will be interesting to see what the fuss and delay have been about.

What we hope not to see again is PEER taking months to finally get around to doing its duty in a timely manner.

Sun Herald

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.

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