Harborgate: Still never a dull moment here in the Bay (Updated)

Welp folks, as suspected the City of Bay St Louis is back to robbing Peter to pay Paul:

According to Mayor Fillingame, long time City Clerk Kolf does not know how to properly code the monthly installment of the City’s insurance policy, but nobody believes that as there has been no general fund docket to speak of for months.

Ward resigned from the seven-member Harbor Commission two weeks ago, firing off an email, obtained by the Sun Herald, to the council.

“I feel that eventually we will all be embarrassed in a public financial disaster that is not in our control,” the email said. “The administration has not and will not provide us with accurate and up to date information to make any type (of) decision or planning. (Mayor Les Fillingame) doesn’t provide it to the council and (the) council accepts it that way.”

On Monday, Ward told the Sun Herald he believes the city intentionally took the money out of the harbor fund to cover its own approaching insurance payment.

And this is why I think Mayor Fillingame and Councilperson McDonald’s attempts to plunge the City into the private trash business for the benefit of a few old town merchants is so fundamentally misguided because it is pretty clear a City that can’t get the basics of municipal bookkeeping right that can’t provide basic services to its citizens on a consistent basis has no business expanding into new areas.

Next up the Bay St Louis City Attorney evidently does not know how to contact an insurance agent:

What is missing from the equation is “Respect”. In most Mississippi municipalities, when the Board passes an ordinance and resolution it is followed without question. Here in the Bay if the City Council passes a resolution or ordinance the administration does not like, it is simply ignored. At least three of the City Council members seem fine with that from outward appearances. It is a large part of what makes City government such a train wreck.

Stay tuned.

Update:

Since this post was published both the Seacoast Echo and the Sun Herald have rolled out more coverage of the Council meeting.  The local grapevine is also buzzing as word filters out from the attendees.  Both of the updates involve the year plus long saga of the City Council requesting that their Attorney Don Rafferty procure professional liability insurance.  It appears that Mr. Rafferty waited a bit too long:

Tempers flare at Bay Council meeting ~ Dwayne Bremer

The tension was palpable Tuesday at the Bay St. Louis City Council meeting as Ward Five Councilman Joey Boudin and city attorney Donald Rafferty sparred over Rafferty’s lack of professional liability insurance.

Insurance request leads to ‘dirty laundry’ exchange at Bay St. Louis council meeting~ Wes Muller

Rafferty is currently involved in litigation with a former client, Donna K. Bell, according to court records.

Now that the litigation has come out, Wes called up to Mississippi Insurance Department and snagged another quote:

“If they find there’s a pending lawsuit, I can just about guarantee you that person would be declined,” Haire said.

The time to be looking for Professional Liability Insurance is definitely before you get sued. For lawyers across the US including here in Mississippi a couple of clicks is all it takes to start the process. I’ve known a couple of the insurance agents the bar has listed on their LPL page for more than 20 years and they are certainly reputable.

Now that this situation, as is typical in here in Mayberry-by-the-Sea, has turned into a clusterf#@k reaching the rock and hard place stage it will be interesting to how the Mayor and City Council handle it.

The Sun Herald was kind enough to furnish both the complaint against Mr. Rafferty and his answer.

33 thoughts on “Harborgate: Still never a dull moment here in the Bay (Updated)”

  1. You know that old saying–“You had to be there.” Well, I was last nigh. Unreal. Oh, by the way, is there a City Clerk still on duty in the Bay? Hasn’t been to a meeting in a while.
    The propaganda that spewed from the Mayor’s mouth to a Ward 3 resident wanting an update on the sidewalk project in her neighborhood was shameful. But he is good at BS. He should be sitting on a platform at Wal Mart right now since they are setting up their Garden Center with a large shipment of all sorts of new fertilizers. For crying out loud, just tell the woman you don’t have the upfront money for the project. It doesn’t matter how many bids you advertise for. In his absence of being candid with a citizen, the Council could have spoken up. Silence is golden.
    If City Clerk Kolf is responsible for the “mistake” regarding the Harbor Fund, then I guess we can assume that Candy Breaux (Utility Dept. Supervisor) is responsible for the $370,000 that was used out of the Utility Fund for whatever–no one knows.
    One citizen after another got up to the mike to tell the Council about their bad experiences with the city from the ill run Building Dept. to the Website that “sucks” as one Harbor Commissioner told them.
    Then they were chastised by a Joan Coleman, a member of CASA for not attending the Mardi Gras Ball CASA sponsored last Saturday. Joan, honey, these people don’t feel like dancing right now, okay. They are just not in the mood.
    Last but not least is the uninsured City Attorney. But Rod Ward told it all when he told the Council that it is irresponsible for an attorney to be uninsured, and it was irresponsible for them to hire one that was uninsured. Rod, you are making too much sense. Sit down.
    My favorite quote of the night was the Mayor telling the Council, as he thumbed threw papers, “It’s just not possible to pay some of these bills.”
    The business community is becoming weary of waiting to be paid by this city. The next meeting may prove to be even more interesting.

    1. Propaganda is coming from you Lana. You continue to hide behind the alliance for GOOD govt when in reality you have created what it appears to me as a HATE group. You attack city employees who work hard at their jobs to make the city a better place to live. The venom you spew calls the employees liars, thieves, incompetent and or stupid. It is uncalled for you or anyone else to stoop to such a low place, Lana. Ward is disgruntled because he could not sell the city insurance. Somebody told me in the council meeting he stated that as a fact that he attempted to sell insurance to the city through the mayor and was not accomadated. Is this retaliation against the mayor. You are in the mud. Maybe you need some of that fertilizer you are talking about for that mud when you have your next garden flower show so you will have flowers for your arrangements. I thought I saw someone who looks just like you Lana buying flowers at Walmart for the last flower show? What flowers do you grow? As far as the building dept, people who complain have most likely violated the ordinances the council has passed or built something without a permit. Did something and got caught? The building dept is a in charge of correcting violations of city code. Ask the complainers how many times they did something without a permit.

      1. Really? No one attacks city employees that work hard at their jobs, but there ar definitely TOO MANY city employees and a multitude of UNQUALIFIED city employees. A good example is the website issue that was brought up recently. I do believe we employ someone full time to handle the city’s media affairs and social business, so why is the website updated once, or less, per year? I don’t think anyone has just outright called any employee a liar, thief, incompetent or stupid, but if an employee accepts a job knowingly unqualified, fails to fulfill the requirements of the position and makes excuses for why tasks are not completed, then they have to fall into one of those four categories. As far the building department goes, you have obviously never dealt with them much because there is no technical or policy-based conduct of operation. Hypocrisy, contradiction and in a lot of cases, pure lack of knowledge have created a “gestapo-like” entity when it comes to building and zoning in the Bay. You are obviusly one of those people who gets away with your code violations, because I assure you that they can find a code violation at any time they want, unless you are running a front-yard barbecue restaurant or an official gathering site of influential city employees, then you can just do whatever you want without fear of a violation. What a joke!

        1. The incomps on the payroll are keenly aware of the fact Jay, which is why you see the virulent reaction when they are legitimately criticized.

          Councilperson McDonald needs material to apologize for next meeting anyway so this might as well be it.

  2. Here’s hoping that every voter who put this man back into the position of Mayor, is ashamed of themselves. This is an embarrassment to citizens. I’m quite sure there are qualified people available who can fill the positions of the employees who can’t seem to execute their positions properly. But, of course, as we all know: these are political positions. Quid pro quo is the only requirement for employment or being a relative of the Mayor.

    1. It was a disgusting sight. The attorney arguing his right to not be properly insured to protect the public. Doug Seal demanding an end to the meeting so he could go home and just paying $2500 of our money to defend a possible criminal act by the building dept. Les lying about stealing money from the harbor fund.

      When will we have just one meeting where I truth is told?

      The council as a whole are deplorable. They get paid handsomely for bad behavior.

  3. Spyderwoman and Paying Attention,
    It is indeed a sad state of affairs. The folks had better let them know they want better out of their government or nothing will change. All I can say, is thank goodness for the press.

  4. Told you two weeks ago, the payment smelled funny. Glad to see Joey opened some whoop-azz
    on Donnie, its about time. Time to give Les a BS bag for his erroneous payment. They didn’t have
    $19000 in the general fund and the payment was due. If Stacy Pickering doesn’t do something soon
    I don’t know how to react. Guess I’ll just start printing all those confidential complaints I’ve filed.

    1. What is taking the auditor so long to do something? I know pool man must have a direct line to them. I would but I know he has so I don’t. I don’t understand how the city can misspend money that they collected from the citizens then borrow money to pay the bill that they didn’t pay and then make the same citizens pay a second time for services they paid for already. Can this possibly be legal. Now here we go again same problem with a new source. Taking money from the harbor to pay a bill. Is Kolf ready to swear under oath that it was a clerical error that caused the money to be withdrawn? I hope he isnt that foolish.

  5. I know all the people discussed in this post. I think they are a hard working group of people who are very qualified to lead our community. I don’t think our problems are the people we have in office as much as the ability of everyone to lay down their defenses and work together for the good of the community.

    I hope we can work toward developing a common vision for the future of our City that includes the wants and needs of the various neighborhoods. Then we can develop a Mission Statement based on our community vision which can be used to help develop the particular path we take. We have overcome a total elimination of four hundred years of development here in just 10 years. We had a lot of help. But we did work together and we rebuilt the Bay.

    I would like to see that spirit tackle our new problems. Hoping for a real spirit of cooperation that provides the best atmosphere for our community to prosper and not just get by in life.

    1. Steve,
      Before Bay St. Louis can get any of the things you mentioned we need to first have elected officials that are representing the best interest of the city not their own agenda. Its like the boy that cried wolf, once a man lies so many time and is proved to be lying then he becomes unbelievable. This is where Les is now. He first needs to admit the city in in trouble and then work with the council to determine what the best actions to be taken are. The number of firefighters is down and the number of police officers is down as well. It’s my understanding, someone correct me if I’m wrong, there are only three officers patrolling the Bay at any given time. That’s a lot of area to cover. But while these departments suffer shortages there are positions that cost the city a lot of money and don’t appear to be necessary. Once again I’ll say that I don’t want to see anyone lose a job but when the city is on the brink of bankruptcy then something needs to be done and some belt tightening needs to happen. Obviously the loan that was made to bail the city out of the Hancock Utility Authority debt has not put the city back on a firm ground. This has been going on since before the last elections yet no one was interested in the running against Les. Well lets say no viable candidates. When Les shows any spirit of cooperation then others may follow, but lies wont fix the problems. One of the biggest problems in the Bay is the lack of engaged citizens. Look at most of those who show up at meetings, they have a vested interest in what happens. Look at the old town merchants, everything was fine with them until the city wanted to sell the parking lot. Then they were engaged. Didn’t matter that the city was about bankrupt as long as they were taken care of. I can go on but this post is too long now. Thanks Danny for this blog. I just don’t see any hope for the Bay at this point. There may be bankruptcy in the future.

  6. Having a little trouble understanding your post, Steve. Just my opinion but the “common vision” should be very simple: The elected and publicly paid officials can just start telling the truth to the public whose tax dollars they are spending. Just the truth–nothing more, and certainly nothing less–just the TRUTH.

  7. The truth is not in the administration.

    If you will throw dedicated employees under the bus just to avoid saying we have financial problems, for several years, you will do anything. No moral or manly characteristics. Just all the marbles or we all sink.

    Gus n David we know that yall are taking the hit. We all would do the same to protect what u work for, retirement. Dont jeopardize that, he aint worth that!

  8. Lana I look to this as the best vision statement of my generation. Ronald Regans ending to his farewell address. I suggest it to all who seek higher office. We do have to have financial transparency for a City to operate. I was thinking more along the lines of the message of this-

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=c32G868tor0

    Let me add that more important than elected officials are engaged citizens. Just as the correlation between a child’s success in school and parental involvement in their child’s education is very high, so the correlation between a successful government and the involvement of the non-elected citizens.

  9. Senate Bill #2038 has cleared the Education Committee, and is headed to the Senate for debate and then the House hopefully. This is to have ALL School Board Trustees in the State of Mississippi elected by the taxpayers they represent and on whom they can levy millage increases.
    Please call your representatives and implore them to pass this important piece of legislation to get one step closer to returning our government back to the people. This could be one of the most important (if not the most important) step to improving our educational system. The trustees will have to actually ask the public for the privilege of representing them, and answer to them for their actions.
    Start callin NOW!

  10. His highness n the court jester need to move on. The public is tired of it. They disrespect the public at it’s basic level and disrespect their loyal employees more. They are disposable to les n raffman!

  11. The Million Dollar Question is…………………………………………….Was there enough money in the general fund to cover the insurance policy that was nearly in lapsed coverage???????? I venture to say there wasn’t. Kolf and McKay didn’t make that decision. Firstly: The harbor has no property coverage and this was a property policy. Sounds more and more like solid waste bill debacle.

    1. I’ll tell you the worst of it. All those budget hearings held and indeed the entire process has been rendered an exercise in futility by Mayor Fillingame due to sandbagged payables dating from the prior fiscal year. Such practices are as much a form of accounting fraud as what we are seeing unfold at SRHS, the only difference being the amounts are less.

  12. In view of your post, Doug, on sandbagged payables being a form of accounting fraud, and I don’t doubt your expertise, who is protecting the Bay City Hall from the State Auditor’s office?
    If Singing River Health System and the Harrison County Utility Authority are under the gun, when will anyone ever help out the folks in the Bay? I mean what happened with Solid Waste was bad enough. One auditor with the state actually told me that the Council needs to take the checkbook away from the Mayor. But what if they won’t, and they haven’t. What about the citizens in the meantime?
    In this election year, those in Jackson should be reminded of this on going fiasco. From what I am hearing, this year is going to make last year look like a picnic.
    I know of one business that has been waiting since last fall to be paid by the city, and now can’t get their phone calls and emails answered.
    Maybe in lieu of actually dong anything, the Mayor and Council should forego their pay until things are straightened out. That could go to some of the businesses that are waiting patiently for their money. It’s the least they could do.

    1. Ironically, the law is protecting the City from the OSA.

      http://law.justia.com/codes/mississippi/2013/title-7/chapter-7/article-3/section-7-7-211/

      Notice which form of local government is not mentioned by name? Municipalities.

      Here are the OSA Administrative Rules, scroll down to document page 10.

      The Division of Financial and Compliance Audits currently has the responsibility for the following types of entity audits: Public School Districts, State Agencies, Local County Governments, Colleges and Universities.

      When audit planning and scheduling are completed, the section directors responsible for each of the above audit types will notify the Director of Financial and Compliance Audit Division for approval.

      During the engagement planning stage of each audit, the entity will be asked to sign an engagement letter which contains an estimated cost of conducting the audit.
      (a) All costs for preparing audits shall be billed to public entity.
      (b) All costs billed to the public entity will be based upon the actual time of the Office of the State Auditor employees used in preparing the audit.
      (c) All costs billed to the public entity will be billed at the rates provided by statute.

      Notice which form of local government is not mentioned in the Admin rules? Municipalities.

      I audited K-12s under State Auditors going back to the Pete Johnson. Pickering is the 4th one since Pete. None seemed interested in adding Municipal audits to the group which the office is charged with regulatory oversight.

      As a result the OSA is little more than a repository for municipal audit reports. The three firms here on the coast on the list are all reputable firms but across the state the audit quality is very uneven.

      The only reason the OSA visited Bay City Hall is because of Pool man raising hell and the publicity the City’s finances have received in the media. No one is stealing anything here that I know of – yeah there is garden variety cronyism but the cure for that is at the ballot box.

      The only remedy I know of for a municipality that willfully disregards the MS Code including the provisions involving debt issuance and property tax assessments is found at your local Chancery Court. The drawback is the taxpayers end up picking up both sides of the legal tab.

      The dysfunction on display is bound to worsen over the next two and a half years.

  13. Its all fixed, watch the amount of the docket at the next meeting. I will hold the rest of my comments until I get a return receipt from letters to Stacy and Tom, if I have no response I may open a can in the Jackson paper.

  14. What a shame for the people owed money by the city. The only decent thing the Mayor and Council can do at this point is cut their own pay, cut employees pay, cut employee benefits, and cut employees. We had to do it in Waveland. Pleasant? No. Worked? Yes. Our government officials have bitten off more than we can chew with all of these big buildings from FEMA. Now we are strapped with the insurance, from the schools on down to our own property. We have to cut to make it all work, the Bay officials had better confront reality because it will most certainly confront them.

  15. What amazed me is that not one person has made an issue of the fact the City sold the Court St. property
    and used the money to make the last Harbor payment. $370,000.00 GONE!!!

    1. The harbor contractor had to make demands for his final payment because the administration had already dipped into the account. They used the Court Street Transaction to satisfy the financial demands. I Can’t believe the Sec of State turned the check book over the administration as well documented as financial mismanagement is here.

  16. My research tells me that if an attorney does not have E&O Insurance that he cannot participate in a transaction over $100,000. He worked on the Court Street Building which sold for $370,000. He either violated this provision or even worse we probably had to hire another attorney to do his job. Do the math and pick your poison.

  17. Paying attention,
    I am still not understanding why the Harbor Contractor applied to the city for payment. I thought all along that the Federal Government provided the funds for the Harbor. Had they already transferred the funds to the city to disperse? If so, that was a “not smart “move. Guess they didn’t know the unique system of bookkeeping in the Bay.

    1. Many “federal grant programs” operate on a reimbursement basis. I.E. the City would have to first pay the contractor and then request and receive reimbursement from the federal program.

  18. Thinking, if Don tried to get insurance when the Council started this entire no insurance pooooopie it was a year ago. The suit against ole Donnie wasn’t filed until August, lets just say either he never tried getting insurance, or there are other issues as well.

    1. The events that gave rise to the claim occurred in 2012. Once litigation is threatened, for underwriting purposes, it is almost the same as a suit being filed.

      There may be something else out there, or it could be he was uninsurable out of the gate back last March.

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