Sea Coast Echo story on Bay Waveland Schools buying Bay Tech building raises additional questions (UPDATED)

Earlier today I linked the Sea Coast Echo report on the Bay Waveland School Board’s purchase of the Bay Tech Building encouraging our readers to read it as reporter Geoff Belcher attempted to frame the story as a business spat between realtors.  I beg to differ and as I examined his story critically, especially the quotes from Mary Bunch, Avra O’Dwyer and School Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues, I ended up with more questions than answers.  Luckily for everyone I did some interviewing of my own so maybe I can answer some of these questions.

Belcher compartmentalizes the topic into “two major components to the controversy” but he missed a few components in the spin cycle so we need to first examine what we know and compare that to the quotes he snagged and the assertions he made.  Since I bring my day job skills to the blogging scene I’ll warn my new readers this won’t read like a newspaper guy wrote this story but I bet I can make everything understandable thus we begin with the disclosure of the people I interviewed for this post: Bill Washburn, former owner of the Bay Tech Building via his company Magnolia Group LLC, Lana Noonan with the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government, and Ms Avra O’Dwyer, owner of O’Dwyer Realty.  Before I get to their remarks I’d like to make a couple of observations so let’s quote from the end of the story, specifically the attributed remarks of School Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues with Butler Snow:

Artigues likened the process to the district’s recent purchase of two properties near Waveland Elementary to make room for road expansion there.

“We had to offer them the appraised value,” he said. “It’s no different, it doesn’t matter who the owner is.”

Mississippi is considered a non-disclosure state. Property owners are not required to reveal what theythemselves paid for the property to a prospective new buyer.

The $325,000 figure did not become public until Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a nation-wide real estate listing, added it to the Bay Tech description page.

“We got it for the lowest possible number based on the appraisal,” Artigues said, adding that the district was quite pleased with the price, at the time of the sale.

The assertion a govermnet has to offer “appraised value” in a privately negotiated real estate transaction is absurd. I’m not sure of the context of the reporters statement regarding the late date the transaction was entered into the MLS or how it fits. For instance is the reporter trying to hint at the fact the last sale of the building was not considered in the appraisal report the school district paid for after the August School Board meeting?  It simply isn’t clear. Continue reading “Sea Coast Echo story on Bay Waveland Schools buying Bay Tech building raises additional questions (UPDATED)

How the New Media rolls: Watch and learn boys and girls.

Rule number 1 here at Slabbed New Media is “attribute and source”. Rule #2 here at Slabbed New Media is “See rule #1”. I mention this because there is a sleazy underbelly to this biz where for profit entities ignore copy write. Slabbed has a creative commons license that is plainly displayed on the right sidebar. Anyone can freely use the work from this blog provided they attribute the source and agree to redistribute the work in a share and share alike manner. It is a very low bar indeed.

I mention this because yesterday evening the Sea Coast Echo put the following story up on their website regarding the unfolding scandal at the Bay Waveland School Board involving the purchase of the old Bay Tech building. I do not see Slabbed New Media attributed anywhere in that story. This is not the first time the Echo has ripped off Slabbed.

That said Geoff Belcher’s piece is worth the read because he nabbed quotes from Mary Bunch, Avra O’Dwyer and School Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues.  He frames the story as a controversy between realtors, which could not be farther from the truth as I’ve heard from the local Hancock County Alliance for Good Government and those folks are hopping mad.  I thought it was strange he did not have any quotes from the victim, Mr Bill Washburn, who has indicated to Slabbed he has retained counsel in this matter.  Finally I detect a wee bit of ass covering at the Echo, which misreported the seller originally despite the fact it was a public record both at the courthouse and at the school district.  Worth noting is the Echo’s major digital banner advertiser appears to be John McDonald Realty and School Board President Sherry Ponder is married to the editor of the Echo, who evidently didn’t run a spell check on the story before publishing it.

Worth remembering is the following article which Jr. linked a few months ago on Slabbed about a small town in North Carolina with an established, sold out local paper and an upstart that actually reported accurate news.  The internet killed the gatekeeper years ago but in some corners of small town America that message has not yet sunk in.  I’m going to let the documents tell this story because the devil is in the details as we’ll continue to follow the money.

From the reader email bag: A request for perspective.

Q. Many of your and nola.com readers are exercised about the relatively light punishments coming up for Broussard, Wilkinson, and Whitmer (BWW), but these readers seem to believe either that these are the targets or that they are stepping stones to the final targets, Heebe and Ward. Do you think these are really the targets? It would seem to me the DOJ would be much more interested in the true sleazebags: Alario, Foster, Tauzin, and maybe others. For example, why did Foster support Heebe for US Attorney? Can Heebe give them Foster? If the targets are the bigger fish, wouldn’t it be better to get BWW over with and not drag their trials out for 10 years like Jefferson?

Please provide us the big picture. Thanks.

Uptown Music

A. I’ve heard the big picture expressed a couple of different ways and am interested to hear what the commenters think. The media consensus is that Heebe is the final target but the media tends to focus on the short term and there is a sense indictments are coming. There is renewed speculation on the streets about 3 Jefferson Parish councilmen that were on the Parish Council back in 2004. But in the scheme of things they too are small fish. Continue reading “From the reader email bag: A request for perspective.”