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BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -
Dr. Bill Walker was fired on Tuesday as executive director of the
Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. The Commission on Marine
Resources voted unanimously for the termination.
The action comes amid an ongoing federal and state investigation involving the DMR and Dr. Walker.
Longtime CMR chairman, Dr. Vernon Asper, told the audience "we are grieved" by all of this.
a few weeks after the commission voted to suspend Dr. Walker
indefinitely, commissioners decided his dismissal was in the best
interest of moving the department forward and re-gaining public trust.
Not long into the CMR's regular monthly meeting, the longtime chairman
raised the issue.
"I just want everyone to know that we're as
distressed about these things as everyone else is. And we promise you
that in the future, we're going to pay a lot closer attention to what's
going on in the department," said Dr. Vernon Asper, in remarks prefacing
the board's action.
The vice-chairman then made the motion to terminate Dr. Walker.
appears that the commission has received sufficient information that
warrants removal of the executive director for cause," said Jimmy
Commissioner Steve Bosarge added a second and the vote was unanimous.
have not been as aware of what's going on in the agency as we should
have. That is a major regret. That we basically trusted explicitly and
implicitly the entire operation of the agency to the executive director,
with essentially no oversight," Dr. Asper admitted.
firing Dr. Walker, commissioners also took action to provide more
accountability in the future. They amended the duties of the executive
director to include frequent budget updates, reports about contract
workers and details about land acquisition programs.
sure the programs are justified and that the properties acquired serve
the mission of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources," said
Commissioner Richard Gollott.
The ongoing investigation and
headlines have no doubt affected the morale of DMR employees. But the
chief of marine patrol made one thing clear.
"There is a bunch of
good hard working people here. And we're proud to come to work and
proud to do a good job for the citizens of the State of Mississippi,"
said Walter Chataginer, the Chief of Marine Patrol.
"How do we
move forward? We're going to make corrections where corrections need to
be made. We want to rebuild the public trust. We're going to do
everything we can to rebuild the public trust with DMR," said acting DMR
Director Danny Guice.
Dr. Bill Walker was not in attendance at the CMR meeting. He did speak with WLOX News by phone on Tuesday afternoon.
decision by the commission came as a surprise to me," said Dr. Walker,
"After nearly 40 years with this, I never thought it would come to
"I'm very proud of the work me and my fine staff have been
able to accomplish over the years. I think we made some significant
accomplishments and some positive changes," said the former director.
Dr. Walker also says the ongoing probe should come to a favorable conclusion.
"My plan is to work through these audits and this investigation. I still believe it should all end on a good note," he said.
Commission on Marine Resources will come up with three names of
possible successors to Dr. Walker. They will submit those three names to
the governor, who has the ultimate responsibility for naming the new
DMR executive director.
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