School District records suggest collusion in Bay Waveland’s School District’s purchase of Bay Tech Building

Bunch described the growing controversy as unnecessary and unfounded “havoc and chaos.”

“The people that bought the building (LNG) are all very good human beings and good citizens of Hancock County. These are businessmen and what they did – they didn’t go to the school board, from what I understand, the school board came to them. … These allegations are baseless. These guys bought that building. They re-sold that building. That’s what they do.

I was reminded of the Miranda warning when I read the Sea Coast Echo’s second try at poorly telling the stinky story of the Bay Waveland School District’s purchase of the Bay Tech Building from 3 politically connected local business people because as this drama plays out, I guarantee certain people will wish they had kept mouths shut as we visit next with local businessman Gerald Rigby and get his take on this unfolding scandal:

LNG President Jerry Rigby said Friday that any allegations of wrong-doing are completely false. Rigby said it may have been a short while between the time LNG closed on the property and then sold it to the school board, but his company had actually been working on a couple of different development deals at the Bay Tech site since at least last December.

“We contacted (Magnolia Group) through the realtor. … We proceeded with a normal real estate acquisition. We offered a number. They came back with a counter offer. They countered our counter and they accepted (our next offer) very quickly. … I don’t think we had any power to compel them to accept the offer.”

Slabbed has obtained certain documents with the help of the local Alliance for Good Government, a citizens group the Sea Coast Echo regularly paints as loons in their beat reporting on the school district. Worth noting is the editor of the Echo, Randy Ponder is married to School Board Prez Sherry Ponder, thus the lack of integrity in said beat reporting but that subject is best fleshed out in a dedicated post.

What documents did I obtain? For purposes of this post I’m going to zero in on three: One page from the deed related to the sale of the building by LNG to School Board, one of the two appraisal reports that were ordered by the School District and the following letter from the AFGG to School Board Prez Sherry Ponder dated September 6, 2011:

This letter is important for several reasons, mainly because it shows exactly how long the subject of the new central office has been discussed by the School Board and the fact it caused consternation with the good government set.  Slabbed covered this aspect of the larger scandal in my second post of this series, one that prompted the first Sea Coast Echo story on the topic.  Nowdy’s influence on Slabbed is on display next because we need to start building a time line of events to gain a greater perspective on the events:

  • April 12, 2011 Sea Coast Echo story on School Board meeting:  Announced the district had agreed to sell the old Second Street Elementary.
  • Spring-Summer, 2011: Alliance for Good Government advocates exploring cheaper alternatives to building new central office.
  • September 6, 2011: AFGG writes letter to School Board President Sherry Ponder asking for further public discussion on new construction.
  • December, 2011: Negotiations begin between Magnolia Group LLC and LNG Investments’ Gerald Rigby.

This portion of the timeline is important because it shows that the School Board had set sail, making the decision that it was in the public’s best interest to build a brand new building, said decision being made in the face of public dissent. This implies the School Board’s decision was thought out thoroughly and was based on good, up to date financial information. An architect had been brought on board and was designing the structure. FEMA was lined up to pay for the construction so money isn’t the issue. In fact Lana Noonan, chairman of the AFGG indicated to Slabbed a high level employee of the school district said the following regarding FEMA funding for the project:

Think of it as a gift

Now that we set up a Christmas theme, all we need is someone to play Santa Claus so the next document clears up all the questions I had regarding the appraisal as two were commissioned by School Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues of Butler Snow on the Bay Tech Property.  The following excerpt from the first appraisal has the answers as we back up the date the school district was looking at Bay Tech to May 4, 2012. (Click the pic to nab the complete 16 page pdf file)

But what we need is one more date to make things interesting and it is a document from ye ol’ courthouse via the Bay Waveland School District and that document is the resolution from LNG Investments, LLC resolving to sell purchase the Bay Tech Building:

Let’s revisit the last stab the Echo gave this story and quote their quote of Gerald Rigby of LNG Investments:

Rigby said he and his partners had heard that the school board might be interested in the property, but “We never even took the school district seriously. We never approached the school district because we were going to make more money selling the property in pieces after we demolished the building. … Then we get an offer from the school district based on appraisals they had done. We decided to take the offer.”

“This has all been rather shocking that this has come about,” Rigby said. “We bought a piece of real estate. We subsequently sold it. That’s what you do as a real estate investor.”

Shocking indeed as LNG is resolving to sell a piece of property they do not yet own.  Worth noting is the listing agent did not disclose to the seller that she and her son had a financial interest in the transaction. To quote the late Orsen Wells this is really beginning to stinkith.

Let’s put a few more dates on the timeline shall we:

  • March 12, 2012 School Board meeting: Acknowledged receipt of letter of intent from prospective buyer of the Second Street Elementary Property.
  • March 22, 2012: Listing Agent Mary Bunch withdraws Bay Tech Building from MLS, allegedly without her client’s permission.
  • 2011-2012: School Board spends over $90,000 in professional fees designing new central office building.
  • May 1, 2012: LNG Investments LLC resolves to sell the Bay Tech Building to the Bay Waveland School District.
  • May 4, 2012: School Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues commissions the first of two appraisals of Bay Tech Building for the school district.
  • June 8, 2012: Magnolia Group sells Bay Tech Building to LNG Investments for $325,000.
  • August 7, 2012: LNG Investments sells Bay Tech Building to BWSD for $580,000.

If I had to ask one question of school board prez Sherry Ponder it would be: What changed between the time the board made the decision to build a new central office and the date the district decided to buy the existing Bay Tech Building in early May, 2012?

I’d encourage our readers to carefully ponder the implications.

Stay tuned.

Links to Slabbed’s previous coverage of this matter:

8 thoughts on “School District records suggest collusion in Bay Waveland’s School District’s purchase of Bay Tech Building”

  1. interesting read…. question…who owns the parking lot next to buttercup? assessor says Magnolia. was it included in the appraisal value? I see a for sale sign with McDonald/MB on it.

    1. Magnolia still owns it. Mr Washburn indicated to me over a week ago he fired Ms Bunch yet the sign remains. A little birdie told me litigation would be commencing very soon. The next post in this series will explore the legal issues in detail. For the public this is very important because the school board attorney is likely interest conflicted as, at the minimum, he is a witness to possible/alleged criminal acts.

      Once the lawsuits are filed these issues will come clear.

      1. Has anyone considered Artigues role in this. It’s no secret that he and Rigby are linked somewhere!

        1. I know I’m considering it. It is no secret Mr Artigues is friends with Lloyd Nicaud. Rigby is linked to many people including Artigues. There is a social context that I left out of my reporting but this is a small town and everyone here understands the importance of that. You have a specific business link you’d like to share? I’m all ears.

  2. My prayer is that this goes to a jury of hard working taxpayers to decide. The revelations will make eyes
    pop. I predict the jury won’t be out long.

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