Commissioners terminate state agency’s executive director

BILOXI — Bill Walker has been dismissed as the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

The decision came today in a unanimous vote from members of the Commission on Marine Resources.

CMR vice chairman Jimmy Taylor made the motion to terminate Walker “for cause.” There was no additional discussion before the vote.

“In light of continuing information received by the commission, I believe the commission has received sufficient information to terminate with cause the employment” of Walker,” Taylor said just before making the motion to dismiss Walker.

CMR chairman Vernon Asper said the commission has been upset by the allegations made against Walker and the MDMR.

“I can promise you, we are going to pay more attention to everything that goes on in the department.

“It’s hard when you have someone you trust explicitly and they let you down,” Asper said without mentioning Walker by name. “In this case, we gave a person free reign. We are aggrieved at the allegations which have been made.”

Walker was suspended without pay on Dec. 28. He did not attend for today’s meeting.

Walker, who was appointed head of the DMR in 2002 by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, has come under fire in recent months — first from a preliminary report in a federal audit which questioned funds spent on land purchases made through a federal program funded by offshore money. The report found the department paid far more in most cases than the estimated value of the properties.

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

Walker had previously announced his intention to retire at the end of June.

Asper said the commission would immediately begin the process of replacing Walker. The commission is required to submit three candidates for the director’s post to Gov. Phil Bryant for consideration.

Deputy Director Danny Guice Jr. has been serving as interim director since Walker’s suspension.

 

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