Friday, August 11, 2017

Mississippi Department of Public Safety continues to cover-up.

The Mississippi Department of Public Safety continues to coverup the federal government's demand for $7 million after DPS was caught misusing DUI-enforcement grants.   Unfortunately, DPS stonewalsl all attempts to obtain information about the dispute.  JJ published proof two weeks ago that DPS has been lying after obtaining the federal demands from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demanded the Mississippi Department of Public Safety repay $7.1 million in DUI enforcement grants.  DPS stalled paying the federal government for several years, but the NHTSA finally said enough is enough and referred the debt to the Treasury Department for collection last November.  NHTSA also said Mississippi continued to have problems in using the grants.

 The feds first demanded the repayment for improper payments made from 2007-2010 in a September 2015 letter sent to DPS. The problems didn't stop with the improper payments.  Mississippi was the only state to be classified as "high-risk" by NHTSA.  The agency also made it clear that DPS was still incapable of administering the grants. A NHTSA attorney told DPS in a 2016 letter:

After that conversation. and prior receipt of Mississippi's proposal, I received a copy of a Management Review (MR) or the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety that was issued on April 8, 2016. That MR covered the period from fiscal years 2013 to 2015  and identified substantial continuing problems within the Mississippi Office or Highway Safety. including a pervasive lack of program monitoring....

 n light of these findings. NHTSA now lacks confidence that the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety could successfully perform its proposed settlement prior to addressing what appear to be systemic problems....

NHTSA has tried to collect the $7 million from the Mississippi Department of Public Safety since 2013.  The agency grew tired of the DPS deadbeats and referred the debt to the Department of Treasury for collection.

 JJ attempted to obtain information about the federal demands last year.  JJ asked for "All correspondence in 2016 with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or its representatives regarding the NHTSA DUI enforcement grants" in a public records request submitted to DPS on October 14, 2016.  DPS refused to provide any records  in an October 18 response:

 For the past two months, the Mississippi Highway Patrol has been conducting an internal investigation into paperwork filed in a federally-funded initiative targeting impaired motorists. This is an on-going investigation. As such, pursuant to exemptions in the Mississippi Public Records Act, we cannot release information regarding this investigation at this time. Therefore, your request is denied at this time.
Keep in mind that JJ was asking for correspondence between the state and federal government and not any internal documents pertaining to an investigation.  JJ protested and said such correspondence is not part of any investigation.  DPS replied "The documents you are requesting are part of the investigation and are exempt from the Open Records Act."

DPS in its arrogance didn't consider there was another government agency at the end of this pipeline.  JJ submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and obtained the records.  The letters are posted below.

It is quite clear that the Mississippi Department of Public Safety lied and did so blatantly and brazenly.  As stated in an earlier post, Serving and protecting at DPS means DPS serves itself and protects its ass while it spits in the face of the public it is supposed to protect and serve.

JJ submitted this public records request on July 27, 2017 to DPS:

1. All letters, emails or correspondence from the U.S. Department of Treasury since December 1, 2016.

2. All correspondence from the U.S. Department of Treasury demanding repayment of any DUI enforcement grants or Section 154 grants.

3. Any correspondence between the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety, the Mississippi Highway Patrol, or internal departments of DPS and the U.S. Department of Treasury since December 1, 2016. 

4.  A copy of a proposed settlement agreement that was sent to NHTSA on April 19, 2016.  As you know, a court has ruled that settlement agreements are public record in Mississippi.  I have attached a copy of the opinion.  You might recognize one of the parties. 
 DPS still has not responded to the request although required to do so by law.  The Mississippi Public Records Act requires the government to provide the records within seven business days or provide a reason in writing why it is unable to comply with the request.  The government can extend the deadline by another seven days if it provides a reason for the extension in writing- which DPS has not done.

It is clear the Commissioner Marshall Fisher and his minions think they are completely above the law and answer to no one.  It is also quite clear his agency has been lying and is still lying.  There is incompetence and cronyism run amuck at DPS, and this entire fiasco is glaring evidence of it.  The leadership of the Mississippi Department of Public Safety are nothing more than bureaucratic boobs who hide in ratholes behind badges of blue while the politicians look the other way.

The Mississippi Department of Public Safety has repeatedly lied to the public, the media, and to the legislature.  The legislature should conduct an oversight hearing and force DPS to account for the $7 million debt and the shenanigans that have gone on at DPS.  It is also time the Governor held his law enforcement agencies accountable -as he promised to do last year.  This dispute could be resolved with a word from the Governor but that would first require leadership.

It is also a shame that but for one WLBT story, the media has completely ignored this problem.  They are too busy regurgitating press releases while calling them news as they Facebook and Tweet away about the "news."  Oh yes, don't forget to check them out on Instagram and Snapchat.  If they do try to cover this story, they will just go to the communications director for DPS or the Governor get a statement, and then go away.  So much for trying to actually dig and report some real news.  That would require actual effort.   Keep in mind that DPS still has not admitted the existence of this $7 million demand from the feds.

Well don't worry, JJ is not going anywhere and is going to force DPS to give up the truth even though it continues to stonewall and hide while the media and legislature shirk their duty. 

Note: Dear media, if you decide to pick up this story and run with it, read the actual NHTSA correspondence.  The problems at OHS (DPS) went through 2015.  This isn't just about an old debt from 2010 as Marshall Fisher likes to say.


Anonymous said...

Philbilly strikes again!! DPS is the guv's little puppy that can do no wrong. The new commish is just following orders to save his job. It's time for Philbilly to save his boy...

Victor Fleitas said...

To quote one of the greatest Americans of the last century, "[s]o it goes."

Anonymous said...

It is common practice at DPS for the managers of these grants to pay back favors to friends...whether it is overtime paid through a grant to a buddy, or steering contracts to curry political favor. Ask Rusty Barnes how this works...he used grant money in exchange for being treated like a bigshot at Ole Miss.

Anonymous said...

Phil is an untouchable lame duck headed for the PERS big time. He could not care less! But, somebody misinformed him when they told him he could command the use of an MHP cruiser for life.

Anonymous said...

No one ever follows up on these stories. Sometime ago the newly appointed director of MEMA made
Headlines about the previous director allowing mismanagement of a grant from FEMA to retrofit homes
On the coast. The newly appointed MEMA director said the state was out $20 million and he was instigating
An investigation. The Clarion Ledger jumped on the story. But since then not a peep from MEMA or the
Clarion Ledger. One would think that if the state had to pay back $20 million to FEMA somebody would
Report the findings of the investigation.

Anonymous said...

Phil will go down as one of the greatest governors of Mississippi, maybe even the US.

Anonymous said...

@11:24, does that mean that DPS and homeland security qualify as Ole Miss boosters? I just wonder what kind of thank you package Barnes got for handing all of that grant money over to his alma mater.

Anonymous said...

Greatest governors of Mississippi is a very low threshold.

Anonymous said...

Liberal lies!!!!

Anonymous said...

They are above the law. No Gov will ever hold them accountable.

Anonymous said...

JJ you are failing to connect a few dots here. After Rusty Barnes passed over one Penny Corn she was transferred to Public Safety Planning. It was her that brought the misuse to light, remember the ghost tickets that were covered up, then she was fired. Why would she be fired for trying to clean up a mess? Because some do not want the mess cleaned up or else be exposed would be my guess.

Anonymous said...

@ 828, Word is that none other than US Congressman Bennie Thompson stepped in and asked ole Guv to help his boys that were accused of writing those ghost DUI tickets. Interesting enough, this is the one and only discipline case in DPS to ever get an outside administrative judge to hear the charges against the crooks that were stealing from the government. Wonder what ties this judge had to ole Phil or to other DPS executives? Naturally he found these poor misunderstood troopers did nothing wrong. But, NHTSA seems to say otherwise. DPS needs a good house cleaning in the upper eschelons!!

Kingfish said...

Wrong. I know she was fired and she earned it.

Anonymous said...

Wrong about what? These are the facts -

Corn exposed a pattern and practice of at the office of highway safety - they accused her of going outside the chain of command to NHTSA, the grantor (which is her responsibility) and they fired her for it.

Barnes gave her a hard time about how she administered grants while she was at homeland security (she was doing it right by the way) and he made her life difficult, and limited her career advancement by altering the interview process for deputy director (in contradiction of a court order).

DPS is equivalent to an organized crime/money laundering syndicate --- they use grant money (your tax dollars) to pay back political favors, pay people off with promotions to keep them quiet (Steve Beard), and pay people who don't show up for work (Rusty's girlfriend). When this activity is exposed, DPS retaliates in an attempt to keep its secrets. And we can't ignore the obvious, Penny Corn is female, white, and not a trooper - there...I SAID IT. Facts are tricky things.

Kingfish said...

So is taping other people in violation of department policy.

Anonymous said...

KF, as with every DPS policy, it depends on who you are and what/who you know, and/or sleep with. The only thing keeping DPS from erupting with lawsuits is that people need to keep their jobs and are afraid to speak up.

Anonymous said...

10:49 is right - I worked at DPS for a little over 9 years. It started out great, but I began to see how things are really run. If you're not willing to cover someone's ass or participate in some of the scams, you have no future. And if you do decide to play along, you are just as guilty as they are.......there's no way to win. I thought I could outlast the fools, but there are just so damn many of them! They have no desire to improve how they do business, whistleblowers have ZERO protection, and if you file a compliant with human resources they immediately begin to retaliate against you rather than advocate for you.

Anonymous said...

Kingfish, you are swallowing the DPS side of the story on Corn. When the policy changed about recording conversations she was out of the state. There is no signed notice that she ever was made aware of the policy.

And the recordings were made after an earlier attempt to discredit her by DPS officials. There is nothing in her personnel file that points to her not knowing that recording was against policy.

Sad thing is Mississippi will have to pay, when this could have been avoided.

Justice for Rusty Barnes said...

KF@10:19 - I guess you have to consider the setting/purpose of/for the recording, it actually may be encouraged to tape a fellow employee if you're making a sex tape in the boom boom room or stairwell, and I imagine it makes for good entertainment at the trooper convention. I'm sure there's also video of that MBN agent's striptease.

Anonymous said...

KF, since you are a reporter why don't you contact Penny Corn and ask her why she was terminated? I am sure she could give you more information on DPS that would have everyone wondering why they are allowed to still operate.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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