By Lana Noonan, Special to Slabbed New Media
The big surprise party for Mayor Fillingame last night was courtesy of Ward 6 Councilman Lonnie Falgout. Falgout confronted City Attorney Rafferty and Mayor Fillingame with documents from the Hancock Bank pertaining to the Restructured Bond Agreement of last summer when the city could not come up with their payment of over 400,000 on Utility system bonded debt.
Falgout asked Rafferty if he was present when the documents were signed–Rafferty replied yes. Then Falgout told the Mayor that he had signed a document with the bank guaranteeing them that payments of not less than $30,000 a month would be DEPOSITED in the debt service holding account for the payment coming up on July 1, 2015.
Fillingame adamantly denied promising to DEPOSIT the money monthly to the debt service account until Falgout read the document aloud to the Mayor and all present. According to Falgout at the last meeting, no DEPOSITS were made from October, 2014 until the end of March, 2015, coincidentally when the Ad Valorem taxes were coming in from the County Tax office. So, what was happening to that “not less than $30,000 a month” promised to the bank under the Mayor and City Clerk’s signature? This is what caught the attention of Councilman-at-large Mike Favre when he didn’t see that account growing to the amount the council had appropriated in the 2014-2015 budget.
This is important because when the Mayor and City Clerk were taken to task several meetings ago about the funds not being deposited on a monthly basis or reported to the Council, the Mayor took the podium and chastised the Council saying–“you can only speak through your minutes, and you have never told us how you wanted it handled.” Mayor Fillingame then informed the council the transfer to the debt service fund would be made quarterly.
Well, get the Mayor some Aricept, because the Hancock Bank spoke through their document requiring the debt service account, the one that Mayor Fillingame and City Clerk David Kolf signed in the presence of the bank officials and the City attorney.
On the way out of the meeting, it was reported that Ward I Councilman Doug Seal said that if he had been responsible for signing that document for the bank promising monthly DEPOSITS, he wouldn’t have signed it. Right, Doug, then what would your plan B have been? I guess you would have just written a personal check for $450.000 to bail the city out. I imagine your spouse who is in Risk Management with that bank would have persuaded you to sign on the dotted line.
Libby Garcia of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government approached the Council last night and asked them to seek legal counsel as to their Council Clerk having a pass code to the city’s bank accounts since it is always so difficult to get information from the City Clerk. This will establish the balance of powers too since the Council is legally responsible for the city’s finances. The administration can’t spend a penny the Council does not approve.
At this point Ward III Councilman, Bishop Jeff Reed said that for the last 31 years that his church has been in operation, the books of account have always been open to his congregation since they are the folks making the donations. Maybe Jeff should invite Les to come get baptized. He may see the light. Good for Jeff Reed. Great statement.
The tale of the City Engineer appearing before the School Board for a fund requisition for sidewalks on Carroll Ave. is ongoing. Even though the Engineer was there last night, the Mayor did not call on him for a report on how his request to the school board went. I had previously enlightened the Council as to what was going on since the Mayor hadn’t informed them that their Engineer was even appearing before the School Board.
This side walk deal brought to mind another issue, that being–we have one Bay City Councilman, Falgout, and one Bay School Board member, Singleton, running for District 4 Supervisor this year. Wonder how they will defend their position on spending school taxes collected from residents in the City of Waveland for education on sidewalks for Bay St. Louis. This is pertinent too, because part of District 4 runs through Waveland. Think about it boys.
Unfortunately for the public is the way Mayor Fillingame conducts business, and how that Council follows right along most of the time. For instance, they have no “start-up” funds any city sidewalk projects, but they spend $2,000 of the public’s money for an appraisal on the Garden Center, and then public money for advertising for proposals from licensed realtors to bid on the contract to sell it. The City gets a appraisal of the structure valuing it at $150,000, but have never awarded a sales contract with the Mayor now saying FEMA won’t let them sell it, after telling the Council last year that he had spoken to FEMA and it was all okay.
The Hancock County Alliance for Good Government was well represented last night and had some very pertinent questions for the Council and Mayor, not that any decent answers were forthcoming. David Wells, of Ward 6 asked the Council and Mayor again what they did with the Solid Waste and Utility Authority payments that were never forwarded to those agencies and resulted in a $500,000 loan at First Bank that residents of Ward 6 had to help pay and they don’t even get utilities from the City. They are still with Hancock Water and Sewer District. Seal’s answer was “we just weren’t charging enough for our services.” What services? You don’t provide those services. And couldn’t the City have simply sent the agencies at least what was collected for that purpose? Instead the City remitted nothing for 3 consecutive months, all the while claiming that you had great collection rates stating that 97.1% of the users were paying faithfully each month.
Building Inspector Charles Oliver’s wife tried to tell Wells that he was all mixed up and didn’t understand the situation. Right, I’ll be charitable enough not to comment on that one.
Stay tuned as the Audit Report is approaching. The Alliance for Good Government is taking this approach from here on out: “If you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.” And we are just getting started stirring the coals. They’ll be turning really good and white in the next month or so.
Lana Noonan, Chairman
Hancock County Alliance for Good Government