Guest Post: How Long Does Transparency Take in Hancock County???

On November 19, 2013, the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government appeared before the Hancock County Board of Supervisors and requested they put their Minutes and Dockets online as part of their website for the general public to view,especially since their meetings are at 9:00am when the vast majority of folks are out trying to make a living.

It is interesting that they have upgraded their site somewhat to include Agendas and Dockets although not completely up to date. But there are no Board minutes. Folks, that is where the business of the taxpayers is taken care of—where you can read who made what motion, how your elected officials voted, who missed meetings etc. That is the meat and potatoes of the public’s business.

The “chatter” throughout the County about how secretive some of their “business” has been conducted bears out in one glaring example:

In their February 7, 2011 minutes the Board of Supervisors actually voted over the telephone, which is in direct violation of the Mississippi Open Meetings Law. There is no provision in the Open Meetings Law for telephone polling– only telephone conferences of which the public must be informed in advance. The Alliance for Good Government was given a “tip” on this. When we inquired about it, Mrs. Lisa Cowand Board President, emphatically denied it. So we appeared at their office unannounced and obtained a copy of the minutes revealing the truth about their actions.

The February 7, 2011, telephone poll was for a resolution on Tourism Legislation. Now, what could have been so secretive about that? We’ll never know because the public was deprived of hearing their representatives deliberate the issue in front of the public they represent and who pays their salaries.

Those voting in secret over the telephone were:
David Yarborough—Yes
Roderick Pullman—-Yes
Lisa Cowand———Yes
Steve Seymour——Yes
Tony Wayne Ladner-Yes

This is only one example of how they have no conscience about handling the Public’s business in secret. And 3 of them are running for Re-Election this year—Yarborough—Cowand—Ladner.

This is the 15th year of the 21st Century—IT IS PAST TIME FOR TRANSPARENCY IN GOVERNMENT IN HANCOCK COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI!

Lana Noonan, Chairman
Hancock County Alliance for Good Government

7 thoughts on “Guest Post: How Long Does Transparency Take in Hancock County???”

  1. I will admit that I am no Einstein when it comes to local government rules and regulations. However, it seems if government officials are convening illegally they should be held accountable. Or, at least the citizens should call them out to the local media for an interview to explain what happened. Media attention appears to keep many at bay.

    For example, about a year ago Dumb and Dumber of the DMR, were confronted about a meeting and they basically made fools of themselves when confronted by the SH on camera. It’s kind of funny because one of those people have been essentially hidden from public eye since.

  2. Eye:

    Slabbed is the only media outlet that truly covers Hancock County news. I had big hopes that the Sun Herald would allow Wes the leeway to continue to cover stories and keep digging for the “truth” behind the rotten facade, but to no avail.

    Again, thanks to Doug for providing this platform, keeping us up-to-date on what is “really” happening and to the Hancock County Alliance for Good Goverment keeping us all informed.

    Have ZERO doubt the HCBOS will continue to ignore the spirit and the letter of the law when it pertains to doing the peoples’ business in public. How quickly one forgets who they work for. It’s up to us to help them remember when we cast our vote.

  3. Not true. They can vote over the phone. Happens all the time. Here is the law.

    ยง 25-41-5. Official meetings of public bodies

    (4) An agenda and materials that will be distributed to members of the public body and that have been made available to the staff of the public body in sufficient time for duplication and forwarding to all locations where public access will be provided shall be made available to the public at the time of the meeting. Minutes of all meetings held by teleconference or video means shall be recorded as required by Section 25-41-11. Votes taken during any meeting conducted through teleconference or video means shall be recorded by name in roll-call fashion and included in the minutes. In addition, the public body shall make an audio recording of the meeting, if a teleconference medium is used, or an audio/visual recording, if the meeting is held by video means. The recording shall be preserved by the public body for a period of three (3) years following the date of the meeting and shall be available to the public.

  4. King Fish,
    A public body in Miss. may only vote by phone in a teleconference or video meeting with 5 days notice to the public unless the meeting is an emergency. Section 25-41-5 (3) (a) (b). This may very well happen all the time, but the open meetings law spells out exactly how it has to happen ( see references above.)
    This is not what the Hancock County Board of Supervisors did.
    According to their own minutes (page 3) February 7, 2011
    Whereas, Hancock County Board of Supervisors have unanimously voted by telephone poll to make subject request and spread this resolution ratifying said request upon minutes of the ” next” Board meeting.
    There is a big difference between a “teleconference” meeting which the public will know about in advance so they can hear their representatives “confer” and having “someone” poll (which means vote) the public body over the telephone, and then ratify the “vote” at the” next” meeting.
    I stand by my post that there is no provision in the Mississippi Open Meetings Law for any public body to do the public’s business in this way. First of all no one knew they were voting on anything, and no one was able to hear any discussion which led to the vote. It is not good enough to “ratify” what you have done “after the fact.”There is no language in the law for that to happen.
    The Miss. Open Meetings Law describes every type of meeting that a public body can have and how they are to be conducted, and there is NO language that provides for voting over a telephone unless it is in a teleconference meeting and the agenda of items to be voted on have been advertised in advance to the public 5 days prior to the teleconference unless it is an emergency. You don’t simply vote depriving the public of hearing you “confer” ( thus a teleconference meeting) and tell them about it later.
    They not only violated the letter of the law, but most certainly the spirit of the law. And, when confronted with what they had done, not one of them or their attorney offered the explanation of it being a “teleconference” meeting nor did they offer to provide a copy of the prior notice given.
    No, what they chose to do was deny that it had happened.
    As I said, this is the 15th year of the 21st Century. It is past time for Transparency in Government in Hancock County.
    That is why The Hancock County Alliance for Good Government wants to see those minutes published online.
    The longer the Board of Supervisors wait, the more suspicious they look.
    Lana Noonan, Chairman
    Hancock County Alliance for Good Government

  5. You Tell them Lana….
    Thank you Alliance for being the Watch Dog !! Our public officials surely are not protected the citizens and voters..

  6. Yes, she told me. I’m totally on the side of the supervisors.

    They can vote through teleconferencing but they are still subject to the rest of the notice, agenda, and minute requirements of the Open Meetings Act. The only thing that should change is the location of the supervisor voting, all other rules should still be in place.

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