On July 10, 2015 the Mississippi Ethics Commission cited the Bay-Waveland School Board for improperly entering executive session to discuss the award of a professional service contract for architectural services on February 19, 2015. At that February meeting the School Board was advised it OK to discuss the contract award by Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues, who recently completed his 20th year providing legal services to the School District. The Ethics Commission found the discussion of a RFPs for a professional services contract did not meet any of the clear-cut criteria set forth in authority section 25-41-7(4) of the Mississippi Code.
Worth noting is the school district, in response to the ethics compliant filed by Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government, did not actually claim to meet any of the exceptions set forth in the Mississippi Code, the compliance requirements of which Mississippi School Board members receive extensive training. Unfortunately the conduct of the public’s business in secret by the School Board also fits a troubling pattern of secrecy involving conduct of the taxpayer’s business with politically connected citizens dating back to the purchase of the Bay Tech Building by the school district for use as the Central Office.
One of the School Board members that voted to enter the improper executive session, Board President Sherry Ponder, is a long time member of the school board that also holds an education doctorate. She faces at least two declared opponents this fall in the upcoming school board election in the City of Waveland including former Waveland City Councilman Mark Kidd. Another school board member, Maurice Singleton, is running for County Supervisor in District Four. Both have employment connections to the local newspaper of record, the Seacoast Echo.
More recently, the School Board has voted to explore giving the cash strapped City of Bay St Louis fifty thousand dollars for use on a municipal sidewalk project off school property. According to Hancock County Alliance for Good Government President Lana Noonan, the request for the Attorney General’s opinion submitted by Board Attorney Artigues neglected to mention the district’s funding of the project would involve municipal rights of way that did not belong to the School District, an area of the law that is well settled based upon previous Attorney General opinions finding that Mississippi school districts have no statutory authority to fund a municipal capital project.
Those wishing to see the four page preliminary report and recommendations on the matter by the Mississippi Ethics Commission, including the school district’s response, can click below to obtain the four page pdf which was released to the public earlier today.