And from that headline one could easily conclude last night’s meeting was a complete waste of time since the City Council had to schedule a special meeting for later this week after Mayor Fillingame was unable to answer their financial questions regarding the upcoming budget but it wasn’t for a variety of reasons.
Mayor Fillingame did announce that long time City Comptroller turned City Clerk Katherine Smith is retiring on September 30 along with his selection of Casey Favre to fill the remainder of Mike Benvenutti’s term on the Bay Waveland School Board.
I could end this post here and delete the first three words of the headline and call it a public interest journalism day easily completed so I can devote time to the major investigative project Slabbed is doing on the construction of the Jackson County jail where the stakes are so much higher as personal liberty is at issue rather than the simple squandering of tax money by a small town mayor that is in over his head. I’m not though because last night’s meeting was not the one the public was supposed to see, at least according to the agenda of the meeting emailed to the public by Council Clerk Tilley on Friday. This public record shows up on a variety of locally focused websites besides Slabbed so I might as well join the gang and display an agenda here on Slabbed so everyone can get a flavor of what I’m talking about:
I observed a long time ago on these pages that the City Council could do a better job running it’s meetings by curtailing the very generous public comment periods where a Citizen could get up to the mike, state their name for the record and opine (within reason) to their hearts content on issues facing the City. It made the meetings longer, unnecessarily so in some cases. I also noticed a few months back that a new policy was adopted with respect to the first public comment period that it be limited to agenda topics and the above agenda reflects that fact.
A second public comment portion at the end of the meeting was still maintained where the topic of public comments are not limited. Those people that give enough advance notice can be placed at the top of the agenda like Mssrs. Caplinger and Wells were last for yesterday’s meeting. The policy is still very reasonable and friendlier to the public than many local governments in Mississippi which generally have one comment period that requires advance registration with the board clerk. I like the fact the Bay St Louis City Council has such a generous policy, that was adopted when Ward 4 Councilman Compretta assumed the role of Council President a few months ago.
I was unable to attend the meeting last night but I did get some updates via text message and the public comment section foretold the fact the council meeting would be a largely useless endeavor as Slabbed presents audit workpapers complete with after the fact spin: A case study in financial incompetence evidently dominated the first public forum despite the fact that this post, which was based almost entirely on the City’s own public records, was not on the City Council Agenda. (Rightfully so as local press coverage is typically fodder for the local waterin’ holes rather than official meetings of a public body.)
First was Ward 4 resident Larry Smith, a gentleman that has not recently attended any City Council meetings that was highly critical of Slabbed’s use of City public records to illustrate that critical insurances had lapsed despite Mayor Fillingame’s assertions to the contrary. Smith, a former IT vendor with the City did not bother to remain for the entire meeting as he left not long after positing his remarks but he did call for the council to hire outside counsel to “censure” Slabbed New Media for publishing these public records.
Ward One resident Christina Richardson, a vocal supporter of the Fillingame administration who does actually attend most every meeting also spoke up criticizing Slabbed’s posting of public records which illustrated the City was without workers compensation coverage just a few months after Mayor Fillingame was reelected in 2013. The 2013 election campaign witnessed Mayor Fillingame vehemently deny on several occasions that the City was in financial trouble as was then being claimed by his opponent, local businessman Jeff Harding. Miss Richardson did manage however, to touch upon agenda topics in the 2013-2014 Municipal Single Audit, which is now almost 90 days late.
Miss Richardson was followed by regular meeting attendee Mickey Evans whose comments did not include any agenda items but Ms. Evans did engage in some name calling terming the Alliance for Good Government members in attendance at last night’s meeting as “fourth graders”.
Both Mmes. Richardson and Evans are both closely associated with the Hancock County Friends of the Animal Shelter, a local nonprofit that supports the Hancock County Animal Shelter, a very worthy cause that fills a vital unmet social need. At a 2015-2016 municipal budget workshop held earlier this month, in response to questions by Councilman Lonnie Falgout about the City’s budgeted 2014-2015 appropriations to various local nonprofits, Mayor Fillingame revealed the City had not paid the Shelter the $15,300 in remaining support of the $17,500 that was budgeted for the 2014-2015 fiscal year that ends on September 30, 2015.
According to Councilman Lonnie Falgout who spoke with Slabbed New Media this morning, it was those original inquiries by the City Council earlier this month that resulted in the belated payment of the remaining current fiscal year appropriations to both the Hancock Animal Shelter and the Women’s Shelter as reflected on the September 22, 2015 docket of claims that was approved last night by the City Council.
Also commenting was Ward 4 resident Joan Coleman, the nice lady that blamed the City’s auditors for being late with the 2014 audit at the first September 2015 Council meeting. Despite the fact that it is the submission of the City’s Corrective Action Plan to the numerous audit findings by Mayor Fillingame that is delaying the release of the very late report the Mayor informed the council last night his office has still not completed the Corrective Action Plan for the 2013-2014 Fiscal year audit, which was due to the Single Audit Clearinghouse on June 30, 2015.
The above outbursts in my opinion betray the fact the meeting that was planned could not happen after Monday’s publication to Slabbed.org which showed that vital City insurance coverages lapsed due to nonpayment of policy premiums. You see folks the Mayor was armed with that September 5, 2015 letter saying the City had workers comp coverage for the entire year as well as the second email from the City’s insurance agent of record explaining away the lapsed windstorm coverage and the public was certainly going to see those when he disputed the City audit firm’s risk management findings. What the public was never going to see was the past due invoice showing the cancellations and there are City Councilpeople, despite having every document displayed on that post, that would have sat there and nodded their heads in agreement with the line of BS that was surely coming from Mayor Fillingame that the City was covered for insurance the entire year showing the letters he had to “prove” that assertion. That could not happen when the public got to see everything for themselves thus the resulting public displays of anger coupled with childish name calling by Mayor Fillingame’s friends. This is what the public was treated to last night and now we have special meeting scheduled for Thursday to handle the public’s business that should have been but was not handled last night.
Meantime for those of you that hate Slabbed New Media for publishing public records or would brand us as underhanded for sparing everyone the risk-management charade that was coming from the Mayor, we like to hear from you as much as this website’s legion of fans and distinguished list of regular readers as Slabbed values reader feedback. So far the silence on my end has been deafening, except for the expressions of support from a pretty wide cross section of the community that is interested in knowing exactly what is going on with City finances rather than a fantasy version of the events that is often presented by the politicians here.
There were some other powerful moments last night as Mayor Fillingame blamed the City Council for many of the major problems cited in the draft 2013-2014 Single Audit. Councilman Favre in particular took issue with the Mayor’s finger pointing but that deserves it own post. Stay tuned.