Dr. Bill Walker fired from DMR director's post - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Dr. Bill Walker fired from DMR director's post

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.

Just 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.

"It appears that the commission has received sufficient information that warrants removal of the executive director for cause," said Jimmy Taylor.

Commissioner Steve Bosarge added a second and the vote was unanimous.

"We 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.

Along with 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.

"To make 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.

"The 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 this."

"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.

The 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.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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