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Interim agency director cannot account for $4M

BILOXI — The interim director of the state Department of Marine Resources says he cannot account for about $4 million in state Tidelands money spent over the past decade.

But Danny Guice told the Sun Herald he is not calling the money missing. He said it appears the money was spent on projects.

“I’ve never suggested there was any wrongdoing,” he said.

But, he said, “It’s just that some things are not on a list or not on a list that we can find.”

Tidelands money is supposed to go toward “conservation, reclamation, preservation, acquisition, education” and better access to the water. Most of the money comes is from casino leases.

A department committee sends the Legislature a list of projects for approval. Some got five or six times the money budgeted for them, and in some cases leftover money went for projects that were not listed, said Guice, who took over in January after Bill Walker was fired.

Guice said, “When I first got here and started looking at the books, just from a cursory glance, I thought we had a little money set aside, but we don’t. And I’m in the process now of finding out where that money went.”

The State Auditor’s Office and the FBI are investigating the agency.

“What I was trying to find out is what they spent it on and I’m not sure they know what it was spent on,” Guice said.

He offered the Sun Herald a list of years’ worth of Tidelands projects he has been looking at, but cut out the amounts budgeted for each project.

“They don’t add up the way they ought to,” Guice said. “That’s why I cut the numbers off the page. Until I can give you something accurate, I don’t want to give you numbers.”

He said he would be more specific when he learns more himself, and is considering calling in the state auditor to do “a regular audit, so we’ll know where we are from this day forward.”

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