Monday, April 27, 2020

Wildlife Federation to Sue MDWFP & Fair Commission

The Mississippi Wildlife Federation issued the following statement. 

The Mississippi Wildlife Federation (MWF) has issued its Notice of Claim with intent to sue the Foundation for Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the Mississippi Fair & Coliseum Commission and others for violation of constitutional, contractual and property rights and for conspiring to take over its annual Mississippi Wildlife Extravaganza held historically at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds, as well as denying MWF access to state owned public space paid for by state and federal public funding.

The Notice of Claim – sent by the law firm of Pittman, Roberts, & Welsh, PLLC on behalf of MWF on April 24 – also names Don Brazil, chief executive officer of FMDWFP; Sam Polles, executive director of MDWFP; Andy Gipson, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce; and Steve Hutton, former director of the fair commission; and event promoter Jack Fisher.

Claims against the defendants allege that they collaborated and conspired “under the color of state law” to retaliate against MWF for its political stance on an environmental issue, deprive MWF of its constitutional rights, conspired to use government power to deprive MWF of its contractual and property rights, and/or to otherwise cause injury to MWF by denying the group use of exhibition space at the State Fairgrounds for its annual Wildlife Extravaganza, as well as access to other public facilities. MWF contends that the Foundation “was a willful participant with MDWFP, the Fair Commission, and the named individuals (either in their official or individual capacities)” in a series of actions aimed at taking over MWF’s Extravaganza and violating its constitutional right to use state owned facilities.

“Litigation is always a last recourse,” said Ashlee Ellis Smith, MWF CEO. “This conspiracy not only undermined MWF’s efforts to promote conservation and hunting in Mississippi – it denied access for thousands of Mississippians, stripped state employees of their constitutional rights and reveals high-level corruption that affects all taxpayers in the state.”

The suit stems from actions taken in August 2019 by the Foundation during a meeting at the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce (MDAC) that was attended by Polles, members of the Foundation, MDAC members and staff and the fair commission, along with others. The purpose of this meeting was to devise a plan to use governmental authority to strip the MWF of its contractual and other rights to lawfully conduct its business on state property. This included but was not limited to MWF’s contractual and other rights to sponsor the Wildlife Extravaganza at the Mississippi Trade Mart.

MWF has also been denied access by MDWFP to a number of state-run properties where it has customarily held its mission-based initiative programs (e.g., cancellation of the MWF’s annual youth Outdoorama at Turcotte and MDWFP’s takeover of the Federation’s annual Youth Squirrel Hunts on state-run WMAs, as has been done for a decade). It is further alleged that Polles and other supervisors at MDWFP have instructed MDWFP and state employees (at MDWFP, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, and the state parks system) that they are forbidden from attending or volunteering with MWF events.

Prior to the 2019 Extravaganza, MWF became aware of a public misperception that the Federation was actively opposing (or otherwise preventing completion of) the installation of pumps at the Steele Bayou Control to push backwater out of the Mississippi Delta. Regardless of the accuracy of this misperception,any position taken by the MWF in public was constitutionally protected speech.

For 33 years, MWF has held the Extravaganza on the same weekend at the same place during the first week in August. Most vendors participating in the event operate within an expo circuit, and do not have flexibility to change show dates. As the fair commission itself has acknowledged, “Mississippi outdoor enthusiasts have grown accustomed over the past decades for the opportunity in early August of attending an outdoors focused expo at the fairgrounds.”

In its Notice of Claim letters, the MWF states, “Regardless of the accuracy of this perception, any position taken by the MWF in public was constitutionally protected speech. In an effort to subvert the efforts of MWF to put on a successful event, four days before last year’s Extravaganza, the MDWFP publicly withdrew its support of and participation in the event and indicated it would withdraw all future support and funding. Privately, MDWFP employees were informed by Polles, the MDWFP’s executive director, that they were not allowed to attend the event in any capacity, either as a volunteer or for personal enjoyment, and that such attendance (even in plain clothes) would result in the termination of their employment. In the past, MDWFP employees routinely attended the event in support of MWF’s efforts and to provide services where needed, such as scoring buck deer brought in by attendees. At all times, MDWFP acted with clear knowledge of the adverse financial impact that the MWF would incur.”

Less than two weeks after the 2019 Extravaganza, Brazil, Polles and Gipson (and/or someone acting on their behalf) called a meeting at the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce. Known attendees included Polles, Brazil, Gipson, prominent members of the agricultural industry, and potential event promoters. Commissioner Gipson presided. The purpose of this meeting was “to devise a plan to strip the MWF of its contractual/other rights to lawfully conduct its business on State property.” This included but was not limited to MWF’s contractual/other rights to sponsor the Wildlife Extravaganza at the Mississippi Trade Mart. Additionally, the Foundation, Brazil, Polles, Gipson, and Hutton conspired to retaliate against the MWF for its constitutionally protected First Amendment speech regarding the backwater pumps issue. These efforts were further purposed to ensure that funds from the Extravaganza would be distributed directly to the Foundation and/or to Brazil and Polles for an unlawful, preferential, or personal use. During this meeting Polles indicated that he and Brazil would be requiring a direct payment of funds to MDWFP and/or the Foundation from the potential promoters.

A second meeting of the above-named attendees plus Hutton was held on or around Aug. 16, 2019, on the MDAC premises in which it was announced that the State Fairgrounds lease for the Extravaganza was being taken from MWF and given to the Foundation.

“Thereafter, the amount of a direct payment demanded by Brazil and Polles from the potential promoters was discussed,” and “Following this meeting, sham procedures were installed for the rental of the Trade Mart … the contract for the Extravaganza weekend was not awarded to the MWF, but instead went to Foundation, as Polles had announced, it was communicated to potential Extravaganza event planners that participation was now ‘pay to play,’ and MWF has been denied access by MDWFP to a number of state-run properties where it has customarily held its mission-based initiative programs (e.g., cancellation of the MWF’s annual youth Outdoorama at Turcotte, a takeover of the MWF’s annual Youth Squirrel Hunts on state-run WMAs). It is further believed that Dr. Polles has instructed MDWFP and state employees (at MDWFP, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, and the state parks system) that they are forbidden from attending or volunteering with MWF events.”

“If these individuals are allowed, through secret meetings and hidden agendas, to use their state power to try and economically punish an organization for its stance on a political issue, or to take over a lawful private business enterprise for their economic gain, then every nonprofit and for-profit group in this state will remain in peril of having their constitutional and contractual rights trampled” said Ellis Smith.


Anonymous said...

This might be the last nail for MWF. I would bet they will go bankrupt after this due to very low support.

Anonymous said...

This may have legs. The State of Mississippi has a habit of taking political actions for which it is well aware will result in a loss in court. Just like Lumumba.

Anonymous said...

Whew! Long read.

So, the power structure of the state didn't like the position taken by a special interest group and used their authority to attempt to force the interest group out of existence.

Sounds like America to me.

Anonymous said...

I get it. The other release supporting the pumps was the head fake.

Anonymous said...

the wildlife extravaganza has been very successful for the past 30 years or so. it makes a lot of money. think about it, short of the state fair how many other events been around for that long.?
not many.
its always about money. the state wants to take it over and get the money for themselves. that's all........
mississippi state government has a long history of attempting to engage in free enterprise . the beef plant, kemper coal, the wholesaling of liquor and wine, all come to mind, and the list goes on and on. remember those?
always just follow the money.

Anonymous said...

Too bad both of the parties cant lose and just go away permanently.

Anonymous said...

Depositions are going to be very INTERESTING considering the players. Thats some very strong accusations. MWF has whipped MDWF and the Core and Levee Board before so we will wait for the next shoe to drop.Is Steve Hutton in jail yet—maybe he will have some friends for company.

Anonymous said...

"mississippi state government has a long history of attempting to engage in free enterprise . the beef plant, kemper coal, the wholesaling of liquor and wine"

Mixed fruit basket. That's it.

Anonymous said...

Polles is a bad guy. I think MWF has a solid case against some powerful folks. The thought of them doing this is really sad. Wonder how many more issues we’ll don’t know about? I hope employees start talking now.

Anonymous said...

As an avid hunter and shooter, it's been my perception for a while now that people at MDWFP treat state assets like their own personal property.

Anonymous said...

Looks like MWF lined up some fake bloggers to attack social media.

the MWF brought this upon themselves, no one did anything to them.

this is dead on it's face. No one conspired and this was strictly born from the stance MWF took and the fallout.

Why aren't they suing that farmer chick that brought all of this to a boil

Anonymous said...

The MWF is the leading wildlife conservation network in the state, and has held the annual Mississippi Wildlife Extravaganza on the state fairgrounds for more than three decades. This conspiracy has undermined the promotion of conservation and hunting in the state — and has denied access to public space to thousands of Mississippians, stripped state employees of their constitutional rights and reveals corruption at the highest levels, impacting everyone!

Anonymous said...

@12;20–What the heck is a fake blogger? I’ve heard of stupid bloggers like the ones that didn’t read the claims made in this release . Suggest you read before making comments. I would imagine the farmer chick will end up being deposed along with some of her backers. Maybe even some of the wealthy plantation owners who if I had to guess is the money behind all of this.

Anonymous said...

MWF is the leading wildlife conservation network in Mississippi, and has held the annual Wildlife Extravaganza on the state fairgrounds for more than 30 years. This conspiracy undermines promotion of conservation and hunting in Mississippi — and denies access to public space for thousands of Mississippians, stripped state employees of their constitutional rights and reveals corruption at the highest levels!

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the "Build the Pump" group
They started the social networking against the Extravaganza

I never realized that MWF was such a powerful lobbying group that
they could single-highhandedly stop the pumps from getting built

Anonymous said...

When you become a liability to your employer and those politically powerful, connected and influential, you are either disciplined, fired or asked to resign in lieu of being fired. The agency responses will be interesting. The timeline and chronological sequence of events, informative. How will the Governor react? Time will tell. Watch the news where it will all unfold.

Anonymous said...

The “farmer chick” that brought all this to a boil lied. She is a photographer. There was no space left for her to rent when she applied at the last minute. She is a plant and a patsy for perhaps the Delta Council. Did they pay her to do that? Was it “pay for play” just like the article accuses state agency heads? Sounds plausible.

Anonymous said...

Calling Shad White. Better hurry up and investigate, Both the MDWF , Foundation, and Dept. of Agriculture receives federal money. Wont be long till the Feds get involved. Sickem Shad !!!!

Anonymous said...

look, more of the same fake bloggers trying to rewrite history

farmer chick wasn't a plant and there was space left. She was told she could have a booth and then it was pulled once they realized she was trying to spread word about building the pumps

as an experienced marketer, I am pointing out that the MWF have succeeded in personifying "cut your nose off to spite your face." They should have just rolled with supporting the pumps and let this thing lie for a while. Cut some salaries and try to survive.

The doubling down in hopes that memories are short doesn't happen when it comes to other people's money

Anonymous said...

It's SO easy, to identify the PAID TROLL(S) for the MWF. Scare tactics... Bullying tactics... all here to redefine the issues, and silence/intimidate/belittle anyone with a dissenting opinion.

Anonymous said...

Can I place a million dollar bet in Las Vegas that all those accused will resign or be fired by June 30, 2020? Who wants in?

Anonymous said...

At 3:58 there is a thing called credibility. Everyone has it at birth. As an "experienced marketer" you should know that professionalism and credibility are of the utmost importance. If you lie as Bill Clinton did "I did not have sex with that woman" you lose your credibility and it is very hard to regain it. So, don't do anything to lose it.

You want the MWF to just suck it up and go along when they were economically damaged based on false information. You tell me why there is any legal reason to deny then from renting a space they have rented for 30 years. Use your marketing savvy to explain that in a legally, defensible manner. Post the name of your marketing firm so we can decide if we want to do business with you.

Anonymous said...

Know what all of this has nothing to do with?
Wildlife and conservation!

Anonymous said...

The farmer chick is definitely not a plant. The MWF has been against the pumps for years. They lie by saying farmers want to drain the wetlands and farm them. Lies, lies, and more lies. First, it’s illegal to drain wetlands and farm them. Second, most of the farmers in the south delta also own woods, the deer have been decimated, the timber is in bad shape and it is happening again. I for one will be happy when the MWF is gone for good.

Anonymous said...

"It's SO easy, to identify the PAID TROLL(S) for the MWF. Scare tactics... Bullying tactics... all here to redefine the issues, and silence/intimidate/belittle anyone with a dissenting opinion."
April 27, 2020 at 4:04 PM

Oh, WOOOOW, a paid troll copied my comment from another thread, and pasted it here, substituting 'MWF' for 'Medical Industry'. What a tactic! I'm so demoralized! Wonder if he had to call HQ, and get them to think that one up. Or maybe, that's in his Paid Troll Handbook? One things for sure, he's working, at the moment, on behalf of that other, longer acronym (The Governmental one, which employed Governor Feel Bouffant (aka Governor Anita Bryant), Howdy Doody in the cowboy hat, and PimpBoy).

Anonymous said...

What I picked up from this was that MWF is refusing to be the silent scapegoat for the intentional flooding of the Delta. It would seem they have spoken out against the powers keeping those pumps out and now are being punished. It all sounds perfectly reasonable to me, business as usual in Mississippi.

Anonymous said...

Flood land is going to flood. Why should taxpayers pay millions so a few landowners can plant their crops on land that has periodicallly flooded for thousands of years? Turn it into federal easement land and preserve the wetlands.

Anonymous said...

Boo Freaking HOO. MWF has pulled the wool over hunters and fishermen for ages thinking they are supporting them. When they took the stance they did, the hunters and fishermen took note and decided to boycott them. Loos of property, loss of wildlife, its devastating. MWF used outdoorsmen to fund their little eco-party. When you turn against the people who have supported and funded you for years, you get canned. It's America and that happens every day. I hope they go broke trying this. If MDWFP and the fairgrounds lets them have it, they will go broke. They may have something in that argument if they can prove it, but if not, its a classic case of you were with us, until you were against us. I and thousands of others will never support or attend anything the MWF does.

To the people saying we shouldn't have the pumps installed, every state up and down the river have them, why cant we? You want to take roughly 750,000 acres of MS and tell them "tough shit, move on". Things are changing when it comes to the way the water is flooding now is different. They were promised the pumps when the levees were constructed. The levees and the Steele Bayou control structure made matters worse.

Anonymous said...

9:46 “things are changing when it comes to the way the water is flooding” - I think that’s the whole point of why MWF is changing its stance. If you really want the project finished, maybe you should quit bashing people who are trying to help. Your bigger problem is whether this new project the Corps is studying will be impacted by another EPA veto.
Their new CEO is an attorney, their new President is an attorney (from the Delta). Lots of turnover over there so not the same people who were fighting the pumps 10-20 years ago. My guess is those attorneys & the attorneys representing them wouldn’t have filed suit if there wasn’t evidence to back up their claims.

Anonymous said...

One thing that some are overlooking is the Dept of Wildlife was tied to the hip of MWF for 30 YEARS. Why was the MDWFP silent on the flooding issue and ONLY when all hell broke loose last year at the Ganza, did they go public. Furthermore they were so convicted that they were one of the last ones to pull out of the Ganza. My point is that they WERE IN BED TOGETHER and after a 30 year marriage when a divorce happens quickly it's going to get ugly!! I don't support MWF and never have. This lawsuit is about corruption at the highest level of the MS Dept of Wildlife. The high-ups there have the mentality of this is their game and they can do as they please, AS LONG AS YOU PAY THE PRICE!! Good for MWF for bringing the corruption to light.

Anonymous said...

11:17, I have read the names of their board and staff. I am fairly connected in the outdoor world and no one on their list, other than an ex-president Paul Ott, rings a bell. That right there tells me who these people are. MWF doubled down after they were caught and exposed and now they are grasping at straws for funding and relevance. They have atty's on the board that have realized their major fundraiser is in jeopardy and their only chance at surviving is to sue. They were hell bent on their stance on the pumps until they realized they were caught and it was going to cost them. 11:17, don't give me that line. The MWF played hardball it cost them, now they want to talk. Darden exposed them for what they are. If youre going to be "for the wildlife", you need to be "for the pumps". If you've seen the starving and dead animals that number in the thousands due to this, the decimated deer and turkey populations, then don't call yourself working "for the wildlife" but think they pumps will drain the wetlands and cause destruction. These long term floods are doin way more damage than to blow the levee and let the river do its thing. Its killing some of the best bottomland hardwood timber stands in the USA in the process.

Also, yall's guy Billy VanDevander is against it. He isn't outspokenly against something like this unless it benefits him financially. He agenda is most likely run everyone off so he can buy it cheaper and reforest it in WRP/CRP stands with gov't funds.

11:17, don't go toe to toe with me on the facts, I know more about that part of the state than you.

Anonymous said...

Maybe they will bring up the private hunting camp of the commissioners at the old Rosedale State Park. But if they don't, I'll keep coming in off the river and dare them to give me a ticket.

Anonymous said...

4/28 at 3:42 you are obviously confusing MWF with Wildlife Mississippi. Two different organizations. VanDevender is on the board of the latter and his stance on the pumps is supposedly “neutral.”

Anonymous said...

There are at least two parts to this which are linked together. 1. The MDWFP pulling out of the 2019 MWF Extravaganza. The MDWFP leadership was probably unhappy that the MWF was perceived as against the pumps. Actually the last statement the MWF issued on the project was that there was a need for flood control in the Yazoo Backwater area and they were open to explore all alternatives and work together to achieve a project. They wanted more alternatives. If you want to boycott something fine, but your boycott should be based on facts. If you fish in the Gulf of Mexico, considering how BP acted in contributing to the Deepwater Horizon spill, a boycott of them is factually justified. Are you still buying BP gasoline?
2. The decision to deny the MWF the right to lease the publicly-owned MS Trade Mart as they have done for many years. Was that legally justified? What valid reason was there to do this? That's what this lawsuit is about. Who did what and when with whom to justify this denial? Will it pass legal muster or was there coersion and collusion? The rules may have been changed? Was that done at what qualifies as a "public meeting" or "open meeting" as defined in law? Where are the minutes from all these meetings? Have they been released to the public? Are they on the agency websites? Where is government transparency in all this? We all deserve to examine the documentation and the timeline. Let the light of public scrutiny serve us, otherwise we are operating with less than full disclosure. Control the information released and you control the debate.

Then you have the announcement that the MS Dept. of Agriculture and Commerce, the MS Dept. of Wildlife and their foundation are going to do an expo on the same weekend where the MWF has always had the Extravanza. How telling. Clearly this is nothing less than move to replace the Extravanza and financially cripple the MWF. Know what the National Wildlife Federatioin will not let the MWF die for lack of funds, neither will the contientious sportsman of MS.

Justifyably, the MWF is taking this very seriously and playing Hardball (a book about how politics works by Chris Matthews). I believe the MWF had a hand in raising an issue (falsification of an employment application with regard to qualifying education) that caused the removal of an MDWFP executive director in the past. Will this current situation be a repeat of the past? Time will tell.

Anonymous said...

Random question- When is the next election for Ag Commissioner, and who can we vote for instead of the present one?

Anonymous said...

@4;09–we have to wait 3 more years to vote All Hat Gibson out of office unless he commits a crime like Patterson when he was Auditor. The biggest problem is that given our history we elect Bozos that climb up the political ladder to Governor Gibson sees himself following Tate in 7 years . BTW I’m not talking about Tate or Hoseman. I think they are in the right place at the right time. We don't need another Feel or Cliff Finch.

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