DPS spends $18,000 and counting to fight $200 ethics fine over records flap with lawmaker

The disagreement began when Representative Joel Bomgar sent an email to Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics Director John Dowdy with questions and observations on drug dealers “fighting over turf,” the economics of the drug trade, and whether prison hurts or helps people.

In the article written by the Clarion Ledger it gives an account of the request by Bomgar, a letter written by Dowdy for Bomgar entitled “Rep. Bomgar’s Answers-Final.dox,” and how the document never made it to Bomgar.

According to Bomgar, Dowdy prepared the letter and sent it to DPS officials for review, but Commissioner Marshall Fisher nixed its release. Since then Bomgar has filed a public records request to see the document, and was initially denied.

After filing with the Mississippi Ethics Commissioner, the denial was overturned ruling against DPS, applying two fines of $100 to each DPS attorney. And while DPS has given the Representative the letter, they are still fighting the ruling.

The agency has currently has spent $17,737.50 to fight the case in Hinds County Chancery Court.

In the article, Tommy Whitfield, the private attorney hired to represent DPS, said this case is about far more than just the $200 in fines or the Dowdy letter anymore.

“There are very few public records cases out there,” Whitfield said. “…All state agencies are going to be interested in the outcome of this appeal.”

According to Whitfield, there are two important points that need to be hashed out: At what point does a draft document become a public record? And what process is due to government employees before they are sanctioned?

You can read the full article on the Clarion Ledger HERE: https://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/politics/2019/03/11/mississippi-agency-spends-18-k-fight-200-fine-over-public-records/2907507002/