The Clarion-Ledger, 10/23/8

Less than a week after Higher Education Commissioner Tom Meredith said he was “exonerated” by a state auditor’s report that showed he received landscaping at taxpayers’ expense, Meredith announced he will retire Nov. 15.

“I have worked diligently over these 45 years to build a reputation of honesty and integrity,” he said in a written statement Wednesday. “There is no way I would have taken a chance at this stage of my life to damage that reputation over anything.”

State Auditor Stacey Pickering said on Oct. 16 that an investigation by his office determined that interim Mississippi State University President Vance Watson had authorized the purchase and planting of 13 magnolia trees in the pool area of Meredith’s private Rankin County home in 2007.