The former director of the Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board was involved in more than just veterans’ affairs during his tenure, according to a scathing report that aired on a Jackson TV station on Thursday night.
Former State Auditor Stacey Pickering of Laurel and his chief of staff resigned from the Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board in mid-May without a clear reason. Jackson TV station WLBT reported Thursday about new evidence of allegations of “inappropriate sexual behavior” between Pickering and chief of staff Melissa Wade. The internal documents were sent to the Mississippi Veterans Affairs Board five months before the two resigned, WLBT stated.
“A memo from December 15, 2021 details one such encounter, which started with a knock on Pickering’s door from a cleaning lady identified only as ‘Elaine,’” WLBT wrote. “No one answered when she knocked, so she retrieved a spare key and unlocked the door to clean the office suite ... she walked into Pickering’s office and saw him and Wade ‘engaging in sexual conduct.’”
Another document indicated that the affair had been “going on for some time” and alleged “a relationship between the two” that was “unprofessional and sexual.”
The report on the document told Pickering to “protect himself and not have closed-door meetings with Wade ... especially meetings that ran for hours at a time, which became common,” according to the WLBT report.
Other evidence that the WLBT investigation uncovered suggests that the two spent time together before Wade was promoted to chief of staff, with some travel records from the state show two different times where Pickering’s travel coincided with hers.
“On April 29, 2020, state records show Pickering and Wade – then a staff officer – each spent $94 on lodging, checking out the next day,” WLBT wrote. “...Then on July 15, 2021, Pickering’s calendar indicates he drove with his wife to Atlanta. State records show he went out of state on July 18 and came back four days later, spending $326 on a hotel there.”
The WLBT investigation also alleged that Wade’s salary almost doubled — from $51,254 in April 2020 to $98,330 by January 2022. Current State Auditor Shad White of Sandersville may be involved in a separate investigation of the former MSVA director for misuse of leave days. White was appointed by then-Gov. Phil Bryant to replace Pickering. White worked on Pickering’s campaign before becoming auditor.
“Though state law allows Pickering, as a member of the Air National Guard, 15 days of military leave per year, records show he only took 12 days over nearly four years,” WLBT wrote. “We also tracked 46 days of family excursions, days off and other personal obligations. In all, we found 205 days for which Pickering should have utilized leave but did not, adding up to more than $118,260 he was paid when it appears he was doing other things.”
Pickering didn’t just get money for times his calendar suggests he didn’t work, WLBT wrote.
“Because he only took 10 days of leave – and unused vacation time rolls over without any cap for state employees – that leaves an estimated 736 hours,” WLBT wrote. “A 3 On Your Side analysis finds the value of that comes to $53,072, $17,000 of which Pickering would get to cash out.”
Pickering, who is a chaplain for the U.S. Air Force, did not return calls to a reporter.
In 2014, Sen. Chris McDaniel accused Pickering of starting a rumor that McDaniel was having an affair and cheated on his wife.
"It was being spread locally that Jill had thrown me out, that I was living on the Coast with a 24-year-old girlfriend and that divorce papers were pending. That was being spread by one politician in this very area and that was Stacey," McDaniel said at the time.