Mississippi House passes amended bill to restructure DMR, require yearly audit

A plan to reorganize the scandal-plagued Department of Marine Resources and require that it be audited every year is moving forward.

House members passed an amended version of Senate Bill 2579 Tuesday, returning it to the Senate for more work.

Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, persuaded House members to amend the bill, taking out a provision that would have removed Marine Resources employees from civil service protection for one year.

Baria argued current managers shouldn’t be trusted with that authority, considering past mismanagement. Former DMR Executive Director Bill Walker pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court to a charge of conspiring to defraud the federal government. Two other former Marine Resources employees are under indictment.

“If there ever was an agency that needed to be held accountable, it is the DMR, considering what has gone on down there, and I don’t believe it’s appropriate to remove them from the protections of the state Personnel Board.”