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February 3, 2013

DMR's fired chief denies wrongdoing via lawyers

BILOXI — BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — A Jackson law firm is representing the fired executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, and says he has not done anything wrong.

State and federal investigators are looking at spending under Bill Walker, of Ocean Springs, who was fired Jan. 15. The state Commission on Marine Resources said the dismissal was with cause, but did not give any details.

The law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz emailed The Sun Herald of Biloxi (http://bit.ly/WK5Oto) and the Mississippi Press (http://bit.ly/Tvg3EU).

"For the past several weeks and months, Dr. William Walker and his family have been the victims of unrelenting innuendos by a local south Mississippi newspaper," attorneys said. "The insinuations against the Walkers appear to be fueled largely by leaks from some government offices and contain no specific allegations of wrongdoing. These leaks can only compromise the efforts of a fair investigation and unfairly smear Dr. Walker."

Walker has worked "with integrity and without self-enrichment" to improve Mississippi's marine resources, they wrote.

The attorneys wrote, "We do not plan to respond to each story the press may choose to run in this matter. We are confident that Dr. Walker's good name and the career of this dedicated public servant will be vindicated."

A preliminary federal audit reported that the department paid far more than assessed values for most land bought through the federal Coastal Impact Assistance Program. The state auditor is also investigating Walker and the department.

The Sun Herald has reported that DMR hired officials' friends and relatives for contract work, and has spent $1.46 million since 2007 to lease two recreational fishing boats from a foundation managed by Walker and meant to support the department.

 

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