Coast newspaper’s request for DMR records hits new snag

UnknownBILOXI — Records that a Mississippi judge said a newspaper has a right to review have been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury.

A Harrison County judge last week ordered the state auditor and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources to make the records available to The Sun Herald.

That Gulf Coast newspaper is reporting that it was making arrangements to get copies of the records Monday when it was informed that the federal panel had subpoenaed them. The paper says Judge Jennifer Schloegel issued a protective order Monday to keep the records available for copying, but the newspaper learned Tuesday that they already were gone.

Attorney General Jim Hood has filed a motion to stop proceedings as auditor’s office attorneys prepare to appeal the ruling that DMR records are public.

For more than a year, the State Auditor’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Attorney’s Office have been investigating the DMR’s operations under former executive director Bill Walker, who was fired in January.

The newspaper filed written requests for records from the DMR’s Artificial Reef and Emergency Disaster Relief programs. The auditor then subpoenaed the same records.

The newspaper reported that the auditor seized the original records rather than allowing the DMR to copy them.

U.S. Attorney Greg Davis told The Sun Herald yesterday evening, “In that we have an ongoing investigation, there are some things it’s just inappropriate for me to comment on at this time, but hopefully, in the near future, we may be able to address that.”

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