Bill Walker, former executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, has hired the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz to represent him amidst ongoing state and federal investigations of spending at the agency under his leadership.
The DMR's governing board, the Commission on Marine Resources, voted unanimously Jan. 15 to fire him "with cause," based on undisclosed information. The Sun Herald has reported over the last few months about questionable spending under Walker, who was appointed to head the agency in 2002. The Sun Herald has been unable to reach Walker since he was fired. Investigations are ongoing by the State Auditor's Office and Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Attorneys from the firm, J. Scott Newton and Rusty Fortenberry, emailed the following statement Saturday morning to the Sun Herald:
"For the past several weeks and months, Dr. William Walker and his family have been the victims of unrelenting innuendos by a local south Mississippi newspaper. The insinuations against the Walkers appear to be fueled largely by leaks from some government offices and contain no specific allegations of wrongdoing. These leaks can only compromise the efforts of a fair investigation and unfairly smear Dr. Walker. Dr. Walker has engaged in no wrongdoing.
Never miss a local story.
"Dr. Walker has dedicated his career to the improvement of marine resources in and along Mississippi's Gulf Coast. He has done so with integrity and without self-enrichment.
"We have been engaged to represent Dr. Walker. We do not plan to respond to each story the press may choose to run in this matter. We are confident that Dr. Walker's good name and the career of this dedicated public servant will be vindicated."