The Clarion-Ledger Editorial, 10/21/8

The shrubbery scandal at Mississippi State University offers the state College Board the chance to clean up its act.

It can see the disgrace surrounding Higher Education Commissioner Tom Meredith and MSU now-former interim-President Vance Watson as an opportunity to clean house or it can watch public trust in the university system be damaged.

The Board has a credible start by accepting Watson’s resignation. Last week, State Auditor Stacey Pickering announced that Watson had repaid $12,333 for landscaping, interest and investigative costs for yard work at Meredith’s home in Flowood.

Meredith is paid $341,250 plus a $25,000 housing allowance each year. But he was never billed for the work, planting 13 magnolia trees near his pool, using MSU personnel, equipment and material in 2007.

Watson released a statement Monday saying that he was retiring “in light of the recent landscaping controversy.” Longtime MSU leader Roy Ruby will take over as interim until a new president is selected.