The scandal at DMR is growing exponentially with the addition yesterday of Madison County Tax Assessor Gerald Barber and his wifey Elizabeth Rooks-Barber to the party. Madison County is where all the rich white folks that didn’t flee Jackson to Rankin County ended up. ;-)
It appears the Sun Herald has all hands on deck as 4 of their reporters checked in yesterday with two stories, the first linked above by Anita Lee, Karen Nelson and Paul Hampton which detailed how the DMR engaged in bid rigging via split purchase fraud steering work to Barber and his wifey. We also back the date up on the OIG involvement to mid July, 2012 which is significant as it implies the Interior Department was looking at DMR since at least May, 2012 based upon my professional experience, perhaps even earlier.
Michael Newsom wrote a cradle to corruption history of the DMR yesterday as well that is a must read for background. I think the Louisiana chapter of the Slabbed Nation will find this scandal worthy of their attention thus the Sun Herald is also timely signalling their intent to take this story home with a DMR page which has links to all their reporting on the scandal. This in turn implies they agree with the community’s assessment this story will be huge in its scope and reach, having already ensnared the likes of the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain and it’s Executive Director Judy Steckler, who allowed the organization to be used as a money laundering vehicle by DMR to hide a specious father-son land deal funded with CIAP funds. Frankly it is not too soon to drop that dreaded 4 letter acronym RICO as predicate acts abound in the emergent fact patterns. Despite that fact Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant remains in hiding along with the Commission on Marine Resources. Mississippians deserve far better from their elected officials.
There is a larger story here in the complete lack of state oversight and self accountability, which at first blush is ironic as Bryant started out in state-wide politics as State Auditor. Once upon a time the State Auditor’s Office actually had a fair amount of auditors in several different divisions from Higher Education to local school districts. The auditing these folks did was very good though I’ll grant they tended to over-audit. Through time the capacity to conduct audits at the OSA has diminished to the extent where I think everything is now contracted out to private firms. The audit quality is very uneven.
I mention this because the type of fraud revealed by the Sun Herald yesterday is fairly easily caught in a well designed audit but I think it also illustrates the environment that Walker perceived he was operating to so blatantly split purchases to steer work. We also now have a window on how County Government operated because the first set of preliminary findings included County procurements including this blurb on the Hancock County Board of Supervisors:
Contractor C? Contractor D?? This is getting interesting as this sounds like language the Department of Justice would use with Grand Jury material. I believe the engineering firm in question would be Compton Engineering as we continue:
At this point I know there are several people here in Hancock County shouting EUREKA because these three paragraphs tie so much together. One party to the Bay Tech Building Swindle would have a prominent role in the above but the rumors of a second party to the Bay Tech swindle being involved in the Water and Sewer biz now come into much sharper focus.