Ocean Springs’ Walker makes grand and bizarre exit from prison
Many celebrities are known for making a grand entrance at various functions. Scott Walker of Ocean Springs has made what could be described as a grand exit from federal prison. Politician and businessman Scott Walker was recently released from federal prison after serving 18 months, was in a halfway house in Hattiesburg for a short time and was under house arrest for a month. He did not arrive home quietly. After graduating from Ole Miss, Walker worked for Sen. Trent Lott, did a stint in the White House when George W. Bush was president and later worked for Sen. Roger Wicker when he returned to Mississippi. Not short on political ambition, Walker ran for mayor of his hometown of Ocean Springs. He spend a huge amount of money on the campaign but was defeated by incumbent Democrat Connie Moran. He then eyed a race for the Mississippi Legislature, but his rapid fall began that led to federal prison. Walker got caught up in the scandal at the Mississippi Department of Resources where his father Billy served as director. Dr. Billy Walker is now serving five years in federal prison. Scott Walker’s business partner, former state legislator and D’Iberville city manager Michael Janus, was also sentenced to federal prison. After gaining his freedom, Walker did not waste any time posting pictures of himself, his wife Trinity and two children on Facebook. The pictures left the impression that Walker was celebrating a homecoming from some major public service or business success. The real kicker came shortly in a interview he gave to Sun Herald reporter Anita Lee.
Walker claims he was innocent, but he should read his own guilty plea agreement before Federal Judge Keith Starrett
He told the Sun Herald he never committed a crime. In his plea agreement signed on February 20, 2014, Walker admitted he was guilty of fraud and consipiracy. In the March interview with Anita Lee, Walker also blamed his imprisonment on former Gov. Haley
Why the problems at a hospital in Jackson County are a statewide problem
The only real daily newspaper on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is the Sun Herald. In the newspaper’s reporting and editorials, it has done an excellent job in the best tradition of first-rate journalism. Some readers may ask why this writer and others have devoted a lot of time to an issue that some think is not a statewide problem. Singing River Health Systems (SRHS) in Jackson County is a county-owned hospital system. The secrecy and lack of financial accountability at SRHS is an issue that is important to dozens of other county-owned hospital systems in Mississippi. Sadly enough, if the problems at SRHS had not become such a major issue for hospital retirees, employees, and the taxpayers of Jackson County, the Mississippi Legislature this past session would not have passed a bill to remove the exemptions of county-owned hospitals from the state’s open meetings and public records laws. Many keep hoping to see positive developments on the issue. That is just not happening.
Last week the hospital trustees and officials released the details of a new proposal to save the underfunded pension plan. Active employees enrolled in the plan would be eligible for a retirement plan when they reach age 67 and the benefit would be about 88 percent of what was originally promised retirees. This proposal, which still must be approved by the courts, is still a slap in the face to the retirees and taxpayers of Jackson County. For example, an employee who had been with the system for more than 30 years could have previously retired at an earlier age and received a pension higher than the proposed 88 percent they would get now. But on the heels of the pension plan announcement by hospital officials, in just a matter of days, county supervisors said they will release the “full story” explaining what happened financially at the hospital and the failed pension plan. The footnote was they would explain what they can “legally reveal.” How bogus.
Almost a year ago I told State Auditor Stacey Pickering that if he really wanted to dig into a big mess at a county owned hospital, he should target the Singing River Health System (SRHS) in Jackson County. That system was ripe for an audit. At the time Pickering was conducting a review of the financial stability of county-owned rural hospitals. None of them had a greater need for a state audit than SRHS, the second largest employer in Jackson County, next to industrial giant Ingalls Shipbuilding. SRHS has 2,400 employees. It was not long after my conversation with Pickering that a new accounting firm found an $88 million shortfall which consisted of unpaid bills over several years that the hospital would never collect. Since that time, thanks to an excellent investigative series by The Sun Herald of Biloxi-Gulfport, numerous other problems of the hospital system have come to light. There is no question that the hospital’s finances and employee pension plan have been mishandled. As people recall, the scandal at the Mississippi Department of Resources (DMR) on the Gulf Coast resulted in the former DMR director Billy Walker being sent to federal prison; his son, Scott, also sentenced to go to prison and several others, including a former state legislator; and six other ex-DMR employees pled guilty to various fraud charges following a federal investigation. The problems at SRHS have the same rotten smell as those at DMR.
Trent is still Trent
It started off Monday morning when the Biloxi-Gulfport Sun Herald published comments from former Sen. Trent Lott that were first published in The Hill, a newspaper in D.C. covering Capitol Hill. The headline for the article said, “Lott: Miss. GOP could use shake-up.” Lott danced between tossing nice comments toward the tea party, while at the same time admitting he would be a target of the tea party if he was still a member of the Senate. (Lott supported Sen. Thad Cochran’s re-election.) During the interview Lott told The Hill that the bitter primary battle between Chris McDaniel and Cochran “may cause the need for some change in the party leadership” in the Mississippi GOP.