Newspaper headed to court over opening of MDMR records

BILOXI — A Gulf Coast newspaper will be in court Wednesday for a hearing on its request to get access to more records from an audit of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

The Sun Herald sued the agency and State Auditor Stacey Pickering in January seeking MDMR spending records.

The Sun Herald requested records of the MDMR’s Katrina relief account in November and its artificial reef account in late December. The MDMR says it is unable to provide them to the newspaper because the auditor’s office took the original documents.

There are ongoing state and federal investigations into MDMR’s business affairs. Questions about the mismanagement of MDMR led to the firing of executive director Bill Walker in January.

The newspaper reports that Pickering filed a motion Friday asking Harrison County Chancery Judge Jennifer Schloegel to seal its motion and all filings and orders in the Sun Herald’s attempt to obtain DMR spending records.

Pickering argued the records are part of grand jury proceedings and therefore cannot be revealed. He said release of any such records could harm his investigation.

Schloegel will preside over Wednesday’s hearing in Bay St. Louis.

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