Mayoral candidate wants to talk to auditor about boat trips

OCEAN SPRINGS — Jackson County Supervisor John McKay says the deep-sea fishing trips he took in 2012 with the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources are now an issue in his race for mayor of Ocean Springs.

McKay, a Republican, tells The Sun Herald he wants to talk to State Auditor Stacey Pickering about the trips.

The fishing trips surfaced during an investigation of spending by the marine resources agency. McKay and various other public officials took trips on the MDMR boats.

“We didn’t know that it was so-called taxpayer money that we were spending,” McKay said. “We thought it was foundation money or whatever. We were told that was the purpose of the boat.”

McKay’s opponent, Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran, a Democrat, referred calls on political strategy in the race to political consultant Reed Guice, who works for her campaign.

“This issue of McKay going on the DMR boats wasn’t invented by the campaign,” Guice said. “There was a front-page story in the newspaper.”

The mayor’s election is June 4.

McKay said he went on one deep-sea fishing trip with a number of public officials and then about six weeks later, in August, he went on one with his grandson and about 10 other boys around the time of his grandson’s birthday.

McKay said he is a longtime friend of former MDMR director Bill Walker and thought Walker’s foundation paid for the trips, not the state agency.

Walker was fired earlier this year. The agency came under state and federal investigation last year for spending practices.

Pickering announced in mid-April that Walker and the Mississippi Marine Resources Foundation would donate two boats they own to the state.

“I voluntarily called up (state auditor’s office) to get this behind me and everybody else that was on that boat,” McKay said, “because none of us did anything wrong, because if I’m innocent, they’re all innocent.”

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