Acting in concert with the U.S. attorney for Mississippi’s Southern District, the State Auditor’s Office defied a court order by whisking away public records the Sun Herald was granted the right to review, the judge in the case concluded.
Judge Jennifer Schloegel ordered the State Auditor’s Office on Oct. 31 to return business records to the Mississippi Department of Resources so they could be copied for public inspection. Her ruling came in a lawsuit the Sun Herald filed almost 10 months ago to secure the records.
She found that they were public records the DMR created in the course of doing business, not investigative reports exempt from the state Public Records Act, as Auditor Stacey Pickering claimed.
The Sun Herald was making arrangements Monday to get copies when the Auditor’s Office revealed a federal grand jury had subpoenaed the documents, commanding that they be brought Tuesday
morning to Jackson. Schloegel issued a protective order at 11:30 p.m. Monday to keep the records in Biloxi for copying under court supervision.