OTHER OPINION: Feds should investigate the DMR

By NEMS Daily Journal

It’s time for an aggressive federal investigation of the state Department of Marine Resources. Over the past three weeks, reporter Karen Nelson has uncovered a troubling pattern of questionable expenditures at the agency, which is responsible for millions of dollars of public spending through the myriad grant programs it handles.

Nelson reported on a federal audit that questions millions of dollars in land appraisals and purchases by and through the DMR, some of them involving family and friends of key DMR employees. The audit found appraisals that were at least up to 16 times higher than the county appraisals for the same property.

It seems new and troubling information surfaces daily and we will continue to investigate and report.

None of this passes the smell test. The Sun Herald is seeking records from the agency that could shed light on a number of emerging areas of public interest. We will post these documents on our website in conjunction with the reporting so the public will be fully informed about this vital matter.

Clearly, the public is concerned about the dealings we have uncovered. It should be. It’s public money.

It’s time for DMR to hand over the documents Nelson has requested, documents that she’ll use to answer the public’s questions about this important agency.

The DMR does good work, important work for an area that depends so much on the waters both offshore and inland.

The sooner the people get answers, the sooner the agency can put thischapter behind it and get on with its work — serving the people of Mississippi.

We commend the state auditors who have been looking for answers about the finances of the DMR. But we think an independent federal investigation is needed to get to the bottom of allegations against the DMR.

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, Circulation 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.