MSU probe: Something stinks in the shrubbery

State Auditor Stacey Pickering said Thursday his investigation found that Vance Watson, interim president of Mississippi State University, authorized landscaping valued at more than $12,000 at Meredith’s Flowood home.

It’s a violation of state law to use tax-funded resources for personal gain.

Pickering said Watson has repaid the amount and MSU will be reimbursed. Meredith said: “I am pleased that this incident has concluded and that I have been exonerated by the state auditor’s office.”

District Attorney Forrest Allgood, whose district includes Starkville, said he would turn over the findings to a grand jury.

The offense may not seem extreme. About seven workers planted 13 or so magnolia trees in March 2007.

But, who knows how it will turn out?

It often didn’t seem like much involved back in the 1980s when the FBI’s “Operation Pretense” sting led to dozens of county supervisors going to jail, often for providing as little as $100 in “free” culverts to favored constituents.

By comparison, $12,000 is a lot of money, especially considering that average tuition at the eight state public universities hovers around $5,000 a year – $5,150 at MSU.

In effect, Watson could have paid a student’s tuition for more than two years for the cost of sprucing up Meredith’s yard.

Clarion Ledger Editorial