Runoff elections bring more change to Hancock and Harrison Counties while Jackson County reverts to the mean

Depending on the November general election here in Hancock County we may end up with a completely new Board of Supervisors but at the minimum four of the five Supervisors will be new now that Sup Tony Wayne Ladner was eliminated in yesterday’s runoff election. Meantime in Harrison County there is a new Sheriff in town to go with three new County Supervisors and Superintendent of Education.

We also had runoff elections in Jackson County with two County Sups in runoffs. Before I link Anita I’d like to revisit what was the prevailing thoughts on the primary elections dating to late July and the confab between elements of the media including Slabbed and the SRHS retirees. While there was no candidate promotion at that meeting a very frank discussion was held about all the candidates for the County Board of Supervisors as well as what people thought was their best guess at board turnover, such speculation also periodically appearing here on Slabbed in comments. Everyone pretty much agreed there would be no more than three seats change with two seats being the more likely number. No one saw what would come on August 4th, with two Sups losing outright and two more being forced into runoffs, especially given the overall low voter turnout raising the possibility of four new Supervisors. For those wanting change the Primary election exceeded expectations. After the runoff elections my mathematically oriented mind immediately thought of mean reversion to make sense of last night’s results:

Jackson County: Cumbest returns; Taylor wins; Ross advances ~ Anita Lee

I thought Sabrina Smith had Barry Cumbest on the ropes and he surprised us with a strong finish.  Political newcomer Sabrina Smith ran a spirited, grass roots campaign against an incumbent Supervisor that comes from a large Jackson County’s family that has been around for hundreds of years and took him to the wire.  She should be proud of the campaign she ran and to borrow and slightly change a football phrase she left it all on the campaign trail. Kudos to Ms. Smith.

Troy Ross advancing to the general election did not surprise me, especially since I was aware that he had the significant support among the SRHS retirees. You see folks people are motivated to vote for a number of reasons many of which are noble but mostly people vote their wallets. I disclosed the reason Sup Ross would win before the election here, specifically:

Ross supporters point to the fact he is a less divisive personality than Brodnax and that Ross will be able to more capably work with the new board to fix the myriad of problems the county faces.

Slabbed has had the privilege to report on this incredible story that involves the intersection of a major scandal with the fields of auditing, finance and the law, in the SRHS meltdown.  Even more significant is the political component in a group of people that cast aside personal differences to create a grassroots movement with a unified voice in the SRHS retirees. They have become a political power in Jackson County.

This group of folks and their determination to see justice done included picketing in the cold of winter and the worst of our summertime heat almost nonstop. This has gone on so long that the group has seen a few of its members die and yet more step up to post. I rather suspect these folks, despite the close bonds they have forged with each other, would much rather be inside in the air conditioning that manning a picket line in the 95 plus degree heat.

So think about the runoff from a retiree’s standpoint. This standoff involving the SRHS pension can’t go on forever and at some point everyone is going to have to gather round a table and at a minimum resolve the financial issues surrounding the hospital and the retirement plan so these folks can get some closure and get on with their lives. For the retirees the question wasn’t one of vengeance in the runoff election.  It was which candidate in District Four could best work within the new Board of Supervisors to fix the mess at the Hospital.

Tommy Brodnax aggressively courted the retirees and I’m certain he had some support among them.  To his credit though Supervisor Ross never stopped trying to engage the retirees and he stepped up those efforts in the runoff campaign making some promises that will cost him his scalp if he does not keep them. Given the enormity of the task that lies ahead when to came time for the voters to decide which candidate they trusted more work within the Board of Sups to fix things, Supervisor Ross won that issue and thus the runoff.

Now we get a lull before the November general election. Randy Bosarge will face independents Allen Williams and Jerry Knight. Troy Ross will square off against Independent David Venus and Democrat Sean Alawine.

21 thoughts on “Runoff elections bring more change to Hancock and Harrison Counties while Jackson County reverts to the mean”

  1. Hey Doug,
    Slabbed must really be stepping on some toes at SRHS as they have blocked access to Slabbed via their wi-fi!

    1. Must be Memaw. This is not the first time such a thing has happened and won’t be the last.

      This is what I want to know. Was Kevin Holland Chris Anderson’s roommate at Mississippi State 1 year or 2? I’ve heard it both ways. If anyone can shed some light on that I’d appreciate it.

  2. I guess what the people of Jackson County get going forward is a 3-2 no vote on looking into anything that has happened in the past.The only way for this to change would be if Ross lost in the November general election. I do not know how many Democrats will come out and vote for the Alawine guy but if he gets the votes that went to Brodnax he may have an outside chance. The Independent candidate named Venus is going to get some of the votes that went to Ross I am being told. Maybe this is not over. Even if Ross wins he will be a suspected person living under the public’s magnifying glass. This may make him a better supervisor. With McKay gone things will be better automatically. The 2 new faces on the board will now have to keep the promises made to the hospital retirees and if Ross or Cumbest try to obstruct this the public will come after them. On another subject how could anyone block Slabbed from wifi access in a facility? Is this possible? This will make all at that SR hell hole view it more. Almost every phone is a hotspot these days so this will do very little except make the employees more curious.

    1. Ross committed to giving the retirees pretty much what they want including SRHS transparency. IMHO the days of Chris Anderson and company being protected by the likes of CEO Holland are numbered.

  3. Despite the high negatives, the opponents still managed a large share for a runoff election. Not only has Cumbest’s family been around for a while, his seat is a legacy. It was held by daddy and grand-daddy before him.

    You would have thought the narrow wins (and losses for some) would have humbled the supervisors. Not so.

    They held no meeting the Monday prior to elections, but are holding a special-called meeting today, for approval of the SRHS budget.

    Something stinks in Pascagoula, and it ain’t the aroma of freshly roasted menhaden.

  4. After looking back over the news clips on SRHS’ presentation to the BOS yesterday (regarding financials, upcoming budget and request for funding), I can’t see how any BOS member would accept the request to infuse $2M a year into the hospital. This is basically the CEO saying SRHS cannot make it on their own without outside assistance. Or put another way – our business model DOES NOT WORK.

    The comparison Mr. Holland made to other county-owned hospitals receiving government subsidies is a ridiculous comparison. Essentially saying that “hey, my neighbor is on welfare, so that’s what I need here as well to continue to get by”.

    However – SRHS is still advertising “the turnaround plan is working”.

    1. Bryant and his sidekicks up in Jackson could help SRHS and every other community hospital in this, the most impoverished state in the Union, by rejecting talking points from Faux News in New York in favor of taking the expanded medicaid program so the working poor can get access to health care. That said, when you are dealing with a mindset that denies health care to your own people in favor of furthering a national partisan political agenda one might as well expect hell to freeze over. Then again Mississippi has a long and distinguished history our Governors cutting off our collective noses for such petty purposes.

      1. They are all in favor of government insurance subsidies for their donor’s beach-front homes. You can’t oppose the Affordable Care Act and support NFIP. Unless you are a Republican in Mississippi.

        1. This has very little if anything to do with “party politics” – for example, the Cumbests of yesterday were all Dems (or at least in public) because that is all that got elected in the south.

          Listen to the SRHS retirees – “the county ought put money in,” “the taxpayers should bail us out,” “lawyers ought to work for free,” etc. In other words, other people’s money should be taken to fund them. Why, then, shouldn’t “the taxpayers” be forced to provide retirement for every single person in the county, over and above what they already pay for Social Security? A business goes under? No problem, zap the taxpayers! It is model doomed to failure and it is failing rapidly.

          And another solution? More medicaid! YEAH! And again, yet another “take from them to pay for us” model. For example, how many people realize that the actuarial costs of pap smears, etc. are figured into all premiums under “Obamacare?” Yep, that’s why there is no “male” or “female” premiums, even though actuarially, men under 50 are simply cheaper to provide health care for than women. But if it isn’t “fair,” it cannot be good. Hey, LIFE isn’t fair.

          The real problem is the whole welfare mentality: “the government” oughta pay for that! Look no further than all the hogs that slopped at the Katrina trough, most of them blue collar nobodies who suddenly managed to grab a sack or two of cash. The ones who haven’t pissed it away are now the ones yelling the loudest about taxes and the ones who did piss it away are the most vocal about the getting more gov’t handouts.

          Here’s the bottom line, SRHS retirees: many of us feel for your plight. You got screwed and the folks who screwed you are sorry scumbags. But no, the taxpayers should not bail you out. No, attorneys should not work for free, but they should not prey on your bones, either, which many are doing in attempting to convince you that they can get more for you if you give them some.

          Sorry, but it is the real world: SRHS is essentially bankrupt, there isn’t enough in the pension plan to give folks what they expected and sometimes in life bad things happen to good people. Like I said, sometimes, life isn’t fair. Sometimes, you just have to grab a handful of your own ass and lift yourself up.

          1. Real world: It’s rather tough for a septuagenarian to lift himself up, especially in poor health. There are only so many openings for Wal Mart greeter. Maybe you have some ideas.

            Real world: The (future) federal taxpayer has already bailed out dozens of corporate and union pensions via the PBGC. SRHS, as a government entity, was exempt from ERISA, PPA, et al. and the protections that would have been afforded any corporate employee. The retirees shouldn’t have to bear the burden of government mismanagement.

            Real world: Welfare mentality is the ingrained reality. Everyone has their pet government program: attorneys’ fees provided by SS disability back payments, bridges to nowhere, Medicare, CIAP, FDIC, SNAP/EBT, HUD, CDBG to subsidize the operations of state-owned oil companies, building ships the Navy doesn’t need or want, Post Panamax port expansions. Jackson County gives you subsidized golf, subsidized marina facilities, subsidized port operations which pay almost no taxes (freeport exemption), subsidized airport facilities, fire protection. Why not support indigent healthcare in a like manner as provided by the corpus of Mississippi law?

            Again, why should one small group be hung out to dry? To what end?

            1. Please re-read your own reply. Essentially, you’re saying, “well, others get away with wrong/bad policy/unsustainable things, so I/we should, too…” Your post indicates that you really aren’t concerned about the problems or the unsustainability, as long as you and yours get what you think you deserve. That’s the whole problem.

              Real world: Jackson County elected crooks have been screwing people over for years, so why should the current bunch be held accountable? As you said, “Again, why should one small group be hung out to dry? To what end?”

              Real world: Local pols have been screwing people for centuries. And people have been putting up with it, so why should the SRHS people be entitled to any “special relief” from that screwing? You folks in Jackson County voted in those that screwed you over, year after year after year after year, because they promised this or that. In other words, you made a trade. Now you get to live WITH it, and they get to live ON it. Is that fair? No…and yes – the retiree who now isn’t getting what he or she thought has to live tougher, but on the other hand, he or she went for the brass ring in voting for and supporting the ridiculous promises made. A whole world of people are much worse off.

              And remember, if it turns out any of the sorry-assed scumbags that put you folks into this situation wind up being prosecuted, remember your own words: “Again, why should one small group be hung out to dry? To what end?” I’m sure their well-paid attorneys will bring that very sentiment up with the jury.

              If it were me, and it isn’t, I’d take the screwing, but I’d raise royal fucking hell with the local DA, various Fed agencies (the FBI, the IRS, and, ***ahem***, FEMA, the USPS, the SEC and HHS, amongst others), both my US House Rep. and both Senators, and ***ahem***, various national media outlets about getting the Justice Dept. looking into the whole sorry mess. But I wouldn’t expect others who had nothing to do with it – the innocent taxpayers – to bail me out.

              Pro Tip: the FBI has all sorts of stuff to deal with, but FEMA, EPA, SEC, USPS, HHS, etc., along with a few other agencies, have rather limited “COPS!” opportunities, yet still have people with badges and the ability to make life unpleasant for those who get greedy

  5. I wonder why no one ever talks about the money on hand in this pension fund? The amount that has been estimated to be $140,000,000 is invested somewhere and should be making some amount of money that would go into the pension fund. What is the current return on investments? The current board of supervisors should not agree to give one dollar until all information that has been requested be provided to the public. What would keep any money given to the hospital system from being used for legal fees in a further attempt to hide and cover? If I were a resident of Jackson County I would be ringing my supervisor’s phone off the hook or be sending multiple emails to him. Leverage is the only thing that works.

    1. Investment returns have been around 8.5%. With no contributions to the plan, the investment income is being used to make distributions to retirees. After this month’s market hiccup, it would be entirely possible that distributions will start eroding the principal. This is supposition because different groups throw around different numbers and so few are willing to commit anything to paper.

      Depending on who’s talking, retiree distributions are $500k-$1 million monthly. The $500,000 is what Billy Guice uses. Since he is the smartest man in the room at the JCBOS, it is likely accurate.

      The hospital is begging for money, the supervisors should take this opportunity to assert some control. As you state, the money should not be freely given.

      1. I would be very surprised to see proof that the pension plan investment returns are sufficient to make the retiree distributions in any quarter since the termination of contributions. In any case it seems likely that the actuarial shortfall has increased significantly since the termination of employee contributions.

        Looking at the changes in the assumptions the actuarial projection are based upon is a separate discussion.

        Perhaps the parties will be releasing this information so that it can be scrutinized.

      2. It may be 8.5%, but over what time period, and does that include all fees, etc – i.e., is that total return? Guarantee me 8% constant return over, say, 5 years (with the ability to back it up) and I’ll max your bonding limit in about 15 minutes, regardless of the number of zeros. Ts are at 2.1%. Equity indexes have whipsawed back and forth, oil dumped and pumped, China took off its panties and twirled them, put them back on and took ’em off again – round and round, round she goes, where it pegs, who the hell knows? Hell, I’ve made 8% in less than hour…OTOH, like others, I’ve lost 8% in an hour, too.

        In other words, if you manage to get 8.5% with appropriate investment, great, but if you are promising and betting on it, day-in-day-out, you’re asking for a hard pounding. For a pension fund with payments-due certain and no room to fuck around and in the current economy, shooting for an 8.5% overall is as dangerous as putting your dick in a light socket – you are going to get a jolt and no sane manager would attempt it. If you aren’t a seasoned, educated investor, you don’t likely know the vast difference between a single percentage point of return in uncertain times, but suffice to say that a safe 5 is, well, safe and a dangerous 6, well, not so much. The delta between a safe 5 and 8.5 on the come, under current conditions and for a pension fund already in the weeds is, well, hey, you really didn’t want those securities licenses, anyway, right? Jesus Christ, doesn’t ANYONE in Jackson County have ANY actual investing experience beyond stealing from the public treasury?

        1. Thanks for your comments on the SRHS pension returns issues. I didn’t have the patience nor the time to say what I thought on this.

          The only thought that I would add is that the average retiree or plan participant probably won’t understand this returns issue. I’ll try to make it as simple as possible.

          There are some recent periods where a reasonable asset allocation should have returned in excess of 8.5%. There are other recent periods where reasonable asset allocations would not have returned anywhere near 8.5%.

          Briefly said there are two types of claims made with respect to investment returns which ought to be warning indicators.

          1. Claiming excessively high returns over a long period of time. This suggests either lucky gambles with a high degree of risk, or possibly invented (as in totally fabricated) results.

          2. Claiming very consistent returns over a long period of time. Level returns or steadily increasing returns are equally suspect. Every trader or investor has some up quarters (actually some never have up quarters, they either shut down or fake their numbers) and some down quarters. Claiming to be excessively consistent puts the claim into ENRON or Madoff territory.

          I haven’t seen enough information on the actual levels of return (after all fees and costs) claimed for the SRHS pension fund to have an opinion. After this long I am probably not the only one wondering why this is is.

  6. 8.5% was a 5 year number – net of fees. Recall Morris Strickland’s letter to the editor. He quoted around 10% for the 5 year period ended sometime in 2014. The S&P was around 17% for the similar time frame.

    The latest plan audit still hasn’t been published, but was approved by the BOT this week. There seemed to be a trend away from so many hedge funds towards those with lower cost structures.

    As to investment returns funding distributions: at $6 million/year you’re only looking at about a 4% hurdle.

    1. The 10 year on the S & P is 7.38% and the 1 year is 1.66%. So what? If you bought Apple or Berkshire in the early years and held on to it, you’re golden, BRK-A is up about 3000%, lifetime, 74%, 5 years, but its 1 year is about .6%, so if you just bought in a year ago, you haven’t made much, and since its year-to-date is -9.14%, real newcomers are not doing well. Apple has had some pretty bleak periods in its history, too. Remember Enron? There are a lot more Tandy Corps (Radio Shack) out there than there are BRK-As. A pension fund needs a steady safe consistency, not wild unpredictable swings from peaks to valleys. An individual investor can take risks and if they do well, they can buy a new home, a vacation home, a yacht or sock it away, and if not, they can keep the current car, take fewer vacations, whatever, until things pick back up – their goals are their own and the only obligation(s) are whatever they may have created for themselves. But a pension plan has a single, very specific obligation that don’t allow it to spend in the good times and cut back in the lean times – it has X dollars of obligation each and every month, not X – $1.00 and not X + $1.00, *X* dollars. It better not be buying yachts regardless of how much it makes and it cannot keep driving the old car until the market swings back up.

      And then, just look at the numbers: if the figure of the current assets of the plan actually total $140 million at an 8% annual return, that’s $11.2 million. If the current requirement is $500,000 per month, that’s only $6 million a year, so there isn’t a problem. Even if it’s $1 million a month/$12 million a year, that would only leave an $800,000 shortfall – granted, not chump change, but not an “end of the world, unrecoverable situation” for a plan that is actually seeing a ~8% consistent annual return on its assets. And it certainly isn’t a reason to spend millions on lawyers and accountants to figure out why there was a $800,000 shortfall in a particular year. Even at a more modest 5% return, that’s $7 mil on $140 mil, so again, $500K/month – $6mil/year wouldn’t be a problem. Of course, if it’s $12 mil, a $5 mil shortfall would be a lot bigger problem than $800K. The bottom line is that assuming the numbers as to assets and obligations being bandied about are accurate, something just doesn’t (literally) add up. And several somebodies at the heart of the situation certainly know what the actual numbers and the real situation are.

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