What would appear at first blush to be a straight forward post has gotten a tad more complicated so what I am going to do is identify what the crackerjack Slabbed Investigative Journalism team found plus a bit more and then put some more meat on the bones in subsequent posts.
I guess the first question would involve identifying Waldo and for that we turn to this Google search string to accomplish that. I used Google instead of homegrown Slabbed links to illustrate that the gang at Frontier Strategies has attracted a good bit of statewide media attention and that attention has not necessarily been positive. I’ll let Wayne Weidie explain via this post on the Weidie Report dating back almost a year ago concerning the bruising primary battle between Senator Thad Cochran and State Senator Chris McDaniel that left the incumbent Senator in second place behind the newcomer McDaniel. Here is a snippet:
Poor campaign decision from the start
For his campaign leadership, Sen. Cochran had Kirk Sims and Josh Gregory fostered on him by Sen. Roger Wicker and Gov. Bryant. Sims was Bryant’s chief of staff before he was named campaign manager. No small factor is that Sims is Wicker’s son-in-law. Gregory has always been the man behind the throne for Bryant, and Gregory is already looking for his next horse to ride into the Governor’s Mansion after Bryant presumably is re-elected and serves his second term.
While the Cochran campaign had other able campaign professionals, by any measure, the management of the campaign was a disaster.
For people that make their living doing political coms consulting, the golden children of the Boss Hogg administration have not fared as well since Boss’s coattails departed the Govs mansion back in 2011 and the above criticism, from an well known, seasoned political operative had to sting. And yet it is more than just giving bad campaign advice as issues involving the maturity certain of the GOP golden boys have also been raised right here on these pages but the focus of my search was for Frontiersman Joe Cloyd and his long rumored no bid contracts with Mississippi DMR that morphed into a long term project.
You see folks normally you’d head straight over to the Mississippi State Transparency portal and pull up all the contracts by state agency and then locate the one you’re looking for – wham, bam, boom its done. But nothing connected with Joe Cloyd ever came up thus the issue became one of resolving the information imparted to Slabbed by sources in the Bolton Building Janitorial Department, an impeccable source of information on all things DMR without cluing the General in as to which sanitation engineer was leaking Slabbed New Media.
Those of you that have followed our coverage of the DMR scandal remember that then new DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller took over a State Agency under siege, investigation and the media microscope. One of his first acts was to hire the Horne CPA Group to get a handle on the agency’s finances and tucked into the Horne Contract was a subcontract not to exceed $50,000 for a new communications company called Frontier Gulf Coast, itself an offshoot of Frontier Strategies a political communications firm owned by Josh Gregory, Joe Cloyd and others, that received a no-bid $1,000,000 Communications contract from the Department of Public Safety among other notable no bid state contracts the firm landed. Kingfish at Jackson Jambalaya has been all over the no-bid CONtracts for Coms CONsulting as well, and April a year ago he did a comprehensive analysis of the state largess bestowed upon this young, relatively inexperienced political communications company owned by former Haley Barbor connected golden children.
Now back to those rumored Joe Cloyd contracts the janitors were carrying on so about. One way a state contract could be hidden from the Transparency website would be to have a prime contractor and a subcontractor like was done with the Horne CPA review of the agencies finances and what we need to do is circle back to an old 404 Sun Herald story that lives on in cyberspace on another media site for more background:
Complaint filed against DMR over tracking of agency expenses ~ Sun Herald July 19, 2014
The Mississippi Department of Marine Resources failed to track all expenses it paid for accounting and other professional services under a contract with Horne LLP of Jackson, according to a complaint filed with the state auditor.
And we get down to the brass tacks:
Both DMR and Horne representatives said detailed invoices were not necessary. DMR paid Horne $150,000 for the 60-day review, although Horne submitted a time and expense sheet that listed hours worked, hourly rates and expenses totaling $199,496.75.
Where’s the detail? Rejebian requested detailed bills in February. He filed his complaint with the auditor July 3.
And the bullshit begins to fly:
In a statement emailed to the Sun Herald, DMR Executive Director Jamie Miller said the initial contract with Horne called for detailed invoices to ensure Horne met its professional obligations. The DMR did not require detailed invoices, he said, because Horne’s “analysis” showed the accounting firm had done more work than the DMR’s payment would cover.
The half-page “time & expense analysis” listed hours worked by five Horne employees, by title, at hourly rates ranging from $48 to $285 an hour. Hourly fees for Horne totaled $111,973.50 and undocumented expenses were $9,041.45. The sheet also listed an hourly rate of $150 for a Frontier consultant, 286 hours worked and a total charge of $42,900. An EnStrat consultant charged $150 an hour for 234.50 hours, for a total of $35,581.80.
I’ve never seen a financial review require the assistance from one politically connected group of CONsultants let alone two, but welcome to the new DMR under Executive Director Jamie Miller. The Horne Contract was let way back in the spring of 2013, in the middle of a criminal investigation of the DMR involving the Walkers and others being conducted by the Office of the State Auditor and the FBI. So when the CONsulting bills were paid and summer arrived, the only thing left for Joe Cloyd to do was hold a political fundraiser for State Auditor Stacey Pickering and recycle some of the DMR dough back to a GOP establishment politician. And that old invite which listed the host committee would certainly be of interest today to the Singing River people as their favorite former SRHS Board Attorney is also listed as a host of that fundraiser.
The timing of this event, in the middle of an investigation into major state agency corruption, was so outrageous that it inspired the first of now many Jackson County protest that Slabbed has covered. It is from that small 2013 protest that the SRHS retiree protest movement was born, thanks to a remarkable lady we here at Slabbed know simply as Mac.
In the words of the late Billy Mays that’s not all though. While it is certainly true that Wayne Weidie was not much on Joe Cloyd’s fellow Frontiersman Josh Gregory’s performance in last year’s Senate Primary, what about the recently concluded Biloxi Mayor’s race? For that we turn to commenter Biloxi Blues:
Again, we witnessed a very viable candidate taken down by his own team. How many errors can a campaign make? This one may have set a new record.
Swetman should have addressed his residency questions right up front the first time it came up with documented proof. I think the public would have accepted the fact that he was caught by surprise when the Mayor Holloway resigned. He defended his homestead move in a way that made him look like a liar. The rumors (and that is all they are) of his pending federal indictment were also clouds that a needed a Windy burst to dispel. The worst kept secret in Harrison County was the over the top fundraiser at Ron’s house where much $$$$$ was given. Too much for a county supervisor. All knew then he was not raising money for his re-election campaign as he pretended but for the run for mayor. Even the SunHerald anointed him “Biloxi’s next Mayor” after that event. As the days went by Swetman threw all of his big endorsement punches and Gilich beat him with the jab. The Swetman commercials alone would make other campaign professionals wonder who in the hell was running that show. They were just awful. And when their internal polling showed them behind they called in the Ms. Republican Party cavalry who, with letters drawn, charged into a “Custards Last Stand” campaign ending. Meanwhile the Frontier generals, watching from a hill in Jackson, managed a last minute endorsement from Governor Phil Bryant to increase the embarrassment because the Swetman campaign was already dead from friendly fire. What a wasted effort it was. Now the watch is on for Windy Swetman to step away from his election bid for county supervisor. His exhausted mind and purse must be considering this. At a minimum he should put together a new campaign team and shed the Payne he must be feeling.
The Bluesman’s comments were prescient as Swetman did withdraw from the Supervisor race not long after the comment was made. So what is a guy that is unlucky in the dark arts of political Comms to do in order to hedge economic bets? Well you go see Executive Director Jamie Miller over at DMR that’s what:
But anyone that pulled this contract and then cross matched Coastal Consulting Group LLC over at the Secretary of State website before April 14, 2015 would only find an Articles of Formation that were filed August 12, 2014 that listed Attorney Ann Bowden-Hollis, ostensibly with Butler Snow as the sole member and registered agent. I use the term “ostensibly” as Ms. Bowden-Hollis is not listed as an Attorney on the Butler Snow website these days, but she is certainly accomplished in the legal profession as this article circa 2010 from the Mississippi Business Journal illustrates.
Notice the date of the LLC’s formation in August and the no-bid Tideland Trust Fund CONsulting CONtract date for the DMR contract beginning a few months later on November 1, 2014. Normally a start-up couldn’t get their foot in the door of a state agency but then on April 14th the Coastal Consulting Group LLC’s annual report was filed and guess who jumps out of the cake?
The new DMR under Jamie Miller looks pretty much like the old DMR lead by Dr. Bill Walker to me folks with the exception of the fetish Jamie Miller has for PR Consultants as the taxpayers get stuck with the bill for a former Boss Hogg crony and that brings me to one last point about that $50,000 contract Frontier got under that Horne DMR financial review subcontract. How effective was the communications out of the agency back in those days?
PR professional volunteers to help DMR ~ The Sun Herald July 27, 2013
Stay tuned for part 2.
Between the date Slabbed New Media LLC downloaded the DMR Contract with Coastal Consulting Group from the Mississippi Transparency website on June 2, 2015 and the writing of this post, the Coastal Consulting contract with DMR has vanished from the Mississippi Transparency website. Slabbed New Media will attempt to get an explanation for the contract’s disappearance from the Mississippi Transparency portal.
(Edited to clarify the name of the Coastal Consulting Group LLC)