Around the GO Zone in 60 Seconds….

Busy doesn’t describe my office on March 28th of a typical year for us and this year is no different. Having finally fully restaffed last fall plus the increase in business leaves me with many options where to spend time such as quality control on the work product produced the staff (i.e. checking business and personal income tax returns), meeting and delivering my work product to my business clients or seeing the many business prospects that are still looking for a construction specialized CPA.

Yesterday deliveries and meetings took me from Columbia to Bay St Louis.  Today I run from Gulfport to Slidell and points in between. The time demands leave me right at 2 minutes to pen three or so posts on topics I find interesting. This missive is the gumbo post where I mix all the little items – hopefully into something good.

First stop is Jackson and the Clarion Ledger, where the very colorful and ineffective Mayor finds himself still cleaning up his messes from years ago. The foibles of Frank Melton normally would not darken the pages of this blog but it appears those he libeled tried to drag the Good Hands people into their suit filed against him by two people in law enforcement.

A federal appeals court has found that business exclusions in Allstate Insurance Company’s policies held by Jackson mayor and ex-Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics director Frank Melton meant the insurer was not bound to provide coverage for, or to defend, him in a case involving a memo leaked to the news media.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling filed Wednesday stems from a lawsuit filed by two men over the memo obtained by news organizations in 2003 detailing alleged misuse of government property and funds.

Melton admitted in August 2005 that he had lied for more than two years when he said that he didn’t release the information while he was MBN director.

The story continues.

The memo questioned the actions of a retired MBN agent, Robert Earl Pierce, and a current MBN agent, Jimmy Saxton, involving the use of government equipment and aircraft.

In their lawsuit, Pierce and Saxton claimed the allegations were false and caused them emotional distress. The lawsuit was expanded to include assertions of libel and invasion of privacy.

In December 2005, Circuit Judge Robert Bailey found Melton liable for releasing the memo. However, in May 2007, a Lauderdale County jury refused to award damages from Melton to the two men.

Attorneys for the two men had sought combined damages of $2.7 million.

In November 2005, Allstate asked the court to declare that as to Pierce’s allegations, there was no coverage for, and no duty to defend, Melton under the three separate policies he held.

Next up is former Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco and the fallout from her 4 year gubernatorial adminsitration which can most charitably be described as a disaster. Whenever events would cause me to experience consternation with Governor Barbour here, one mention of Governor Blanco would remind myself of how good we really had it in Mississippi.  Yesterday the Times Picayune takes the former governor to task for cuddling up to their inept “Road Home” administrator ICF while the poorest of the poor could not get a  crumb from her table in the final days of her administration.

In a letter published in this newspaper Monday, former Gov. Kathleen Blanco portrayed herself as a fighter for people who lost their homes during the 2005 hurricanes. In the face of hardship and criticism, she wrote, “I never lost sight of the mission: Give our people the means to get home.”

That’s nice. But it’s impossible to reconcile the former governor’s image of herself with her actions as she was essentially on her way out of office late last year.

In early December, then-Gov. Blanco rewarded the ineptitude of Road Home contractor ICF International by handing the company an eye-popping $156 million contract increase. The governor then failed to publicly announce her decision, evidently knowing that it would earn her public scorn. Louisianians learned of the contract increase only two weeks ago.

Now comes news that makes the former governor’s bad judgment also seem callous.

Three days before approving the extra $156 million for ICF the Blanco administration decided it could not find roughly $500,000 to continue free legal services for low-income Road Home applicants.

In other words, there was plenty of money for ICF. But the Blanco team could not come up with less than half a percent of ICF’s increase to help poor Louisianians.

As governor, Kathleen Blanco often tried to defend her administration’s indefensible mistakes. But even the best spinmeister — and that, she’s not — can’t put lipstick on this swine.

The next two stops takes us to Hancock County and my hometown of Bay-Waveland. The quest to land a second grocery store (There were 5 according to my count pre-Katrina) looks to be close to over. The question is which city will it locate, Bay St Louis or Waveland?  My sources tell me Waveland is a done deal and the store will be a Rouses, a small but excellent chain whose two recently opened stores here on the coast have been very well received.  The Sun Herald all but lets the cat out of the bag today.

Rouses Markets, the independent Louisiana-based grocer that has stores in Gulfport and Ocean Springs, is shopping for new locations in supermarket-starved Hancock County and along the Mississippi Coast.

Managing partner Donald Rouse said the family-owned chain is looking at the old Sav-A-Center in Waveland and other possible sites for more Mississippi stores.

The story continues.

“Our stores have been well-received,” he said, “and we’re very appreciative.”

Rouse said the company has gotten “quite a few calls from Bay St. Louis,” which has been without a supermarket since Katrina.

Speculating where the new location will be is popular among residents, but Rouse insists no decision has been made and sites are still being evaluated.

“We have nothing pegged down,” he said.

The local interest hasn’t been lost on company owners. Rouse said the procession of shoppers from all over Hancock County has bumped up business at the nearby Slidell store.

“We plan on growing,” he said of the Mississippi Coast market. “It’s our kind of place.”

Finally I saw today in the Sun Herald my old pee wee football coach Ray Kidd is running for the Bay St Louis City Council’s newly added Ward 6.  Ray, a restaurateur whose restaurant Little Ray’s was featured in Southern Living is one of the many local characters that give Bay-Waveland it’s coastal town charm.  We wish Ray well in his bid for public office. The challenges related to Katrina recovery that await the new members remain daunting.

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