In Mississippi it is called the GOB or Good Ol’ Boy network and today at the post insurance forum print media luncheon the topic of the 1990s era “Cedar Point Land Deal” in Ocean Springs came up in context of the discussion of the congressional race between Gene Taylor and Steven Palazzo. It came up because candidate Palazzo’s dad, Frank Palazzo, was part owner of a parcel of land along with politically connected Gulfport lawyer Ben Stone for all of one minute before they resold it to Jackson County for $3 million dollars netting a cool $1.5 million in the process. This in turn caused the folks at Fire Gene Taylor.com to conclude they could not support Mr Palazzo for Congress as they consider him a political hack. In support of that the Mississippi Informer has done a bang up job compiling all the old Sun Herald reporting on the subject. Here is an excerpt from those reports all of which are well worth reading that the Informer was kind enough to highlight almost at the bottom of the page:
Frustrated county grand jurors, who spent five months examining the deal, said they failed to find enough evidence to indict anyone. But they urged county officials to keep looking “for information that may convince a subsequent grand jury to conclude otherwise.”
Jackson County bought 214 acres in November 1995 from two Gulfport land speculators who doubled their money in one day. Taxpayers spent $3 million on the land.
One month later, the county gave the land to the University of Southern Mississippi to expand the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. But USM had no concrete plans, timetable or money to expand the lab.
“The whole thing was rotten in my estimation,” Attorney General Mike Moore said Friday, “but not being able to find anyone with a bag of cash who made a bribe to anyone made an indictment difficult.”
That Mike Moore quote was priceless and here is why. Moore’s name also came up a good bit in the Dick Scruggs Judicial bribery scandal and conservative author/blogger Alan Lange laid out a large amount of evidence against Moore, especially his role in a certain case in the Jackson County Court System as it related to the tobacco litigation. Chances are Moore was dicked up in that land deal in one way shape or fashion as I offer this old story from the Mississippi Business Journal in support of that assertion, which ironically references the work of Curtis Wilkie while he was at the Boston Globe:
Though it is Mississippi’s most industrialized setting, Jackson County as the reputation of being run by a “good ole boys” club, reflecting an who’s often found in rural Southern counties, where a handful of supervisors control the distribution of lucrative public contracts.
PASCAGOULA — Jackson County is getting a lot of negative publicity for investigations into alleged financial improprieties in county government. Some people have said it is negatively affecting the business climate of the county.
“I think it looks bad to people who read the newspapers that the people are being fleeced around here,” said Bill. Dillon, who heads a Jackson County taxpayer’s rights group called Citizens for Better Government. “People don’t want to come in here and be fleeced. Up in Jackson, Jackson County is known as the worst county in Mississippi as far as having these different kind of scams go on.”
An investigation into the $3-million purchase of land at Cedar Point in Jackson County for expansion of the University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) Gulf Coast Research Lab has attracted national attention. The Boston Globe recently published an article on the Cedar Point issue. A grand jury in Jackson County has been hearing testimony concerning the purchase of Cedar Point.
The Boston Globe article by Curtis Wilkie was titled “In Lott country, critics cry foul over land deal”, with a subheading, “Audit, investigation bolster Jackson County’s ‘good ole boys’ club reputation.”
The article, which was reprinted by the Mobile Press Register, painted an unflattering picture of the county:
The article also included photos of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore with a quote underneath by an anonymous board member of the Jackson County Port Authority which said: “If Trent Lott or Mike Moore really wanted to clean this up, they could do it in a minute.”
The article went into great detail about the Cedar Point land transaction, and quoted current Jackson County Supervisor Burt Patterson as saying that “sweetheart deals” had cost the county as much as $10 million. “Somewhere along the line, the county good was subjugated and greed took over,” Patterson was quoted as saying.
One naturally is left to wonder if the legacy political connections over at Team Palazzo would be detrimental to the hard-working folks here on the Gulf Coast. I think this is a legitimate concern.
Slabbed reports you decide.