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BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -
The conclusion the Mississippi Commission on Marine Resources came to, in regards to Executive Director Dr. Bill Walker, was an indefinite suspension without pay.
"He will be not coming to the office and the department will run without him until we're convinced one way or another," Commission Chairman, Vernon As per said.
Walker's suspension comes as the result of a preliminary report from a federal audit. The report stated numerous cases where the land purchases made by the Department of Marine Resources didn't match with the estimated value of the properties. There were also concerns that relatives, neighbors, and friends of Walker were given contract jobs.
"All I can say about the evidence that was see is that it was convincing enough that we feel this is warranted. We saw not just rumors or innuendo, or allegations. But we saw some solid printed evidence that is very suspicious and requires some detailed investigation and explanation," Asper said.
That explanation is expected to come from the federal investigation through the state auditor's office. Though the exact outcome is unknown, what officials with commission say they do know is, that this is a very difficult time for them.
"We think the world of Dr. Walker. We are very proud of what he has done with this agency. Everybody here loves him and has a lot of respect for him. So it was not an easy decision at all to suspend him like this. This is one of the most painful things that I've ever had to do because I really think the world of Dr. Walker. I hope that in a few weeks when the results of the investigation are complete. We see that this was a mistake and that Dr. Walker will be completely vindicated," Asper said.
Officials with the commission on Marine Resources say they have been told the investigation could be complete as early as February.
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