Last night’s Bay City Council meeting was evidently one for the ages and the Mayor’s new citizens group, the Les Lovers United were in attendance. But what interested me most from last night was the above quote from a Citizen that had never previously attended a City Council meeting because only those blinded by cognitive bias born of perceived self interest can’t see the three ring circus that is the Fillingame Administration as it is pretty apparent to everyone else.
Since the local newspaper of record’s idea of beat reporting on recent meetings consists of letting Les Lovers United spew venom at the Mayor’s critics we’ll do our best here at Slabbed New Media to actually inform the public about what is happening in their City and in that way differentiate the news product. The bottom line here is Slabbed gets its news to report from the City Council Chamber, not the back of the Mayor’s limousine.
First on the agenda was the City Attorney’s contract. You see folks, under the Fillingame Administration the City Attorney evidently operates off a handshake, nod and wink and despite months of the City Council asking for a contract, as strongly recommended by the Office of the State Auditor, one has not been presented to them for approval. I was not at the meeting but you get the feeling City Attorney Rafferty would drag this all out until June 30, 2017 if he could but last night Councilman Doug Seal read the council’s offer to the City Attorney and told him to either have a contract which conforms to those terms ready to execute at the next meeting or the Council would advertise the position.
Mayor Fillingame opened the Mayor’s report by withdrawing his nomination of City Cultural Affairs Director Paula Fairconnetue to be City Clerk. The Council has previously directed Mayor Fillingame to advertise the position in November after Clerk Clark resigned but that has not still not happened according to Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government, who was in attendance last night. My own opinion is its hard to find a qualified City Clerk to hire when you don’t look for one.
The Mayor also advised the Council during his report that the 2014-2015 fiscal year audit had commenced. He was later contradicted by City Comptroller Sissy Gonzales who informed the council the City’s books and records were in no way ready for audit commencement. Mayor Fillingame then asked for the Council’s permission to bring in a CPA firm to close the books on the 2014-2015 fiscal year, suggesting Carr Riggs and Ingram from Metairie for the job. The Council agreed to let the Mayor get proposals. Given the late date, now almost 5 full months after fiscal year end, in closing the City’s books it is a virtual certainty the City’s audit will again be late as it is due to the Single Audit clearinghouse by June 30, 2016.
Last summer, in public remarks before the City Council, Les Lovers United member Joan Coleman, claiming to be an accountant, blamed audit firm Wright Ward and Hatten for the City being serially late with its fiscal year end audits. With Ward Wright and Hatten out of the picture for the 2015-2016 audit, it will be interesting to see who Les Lovers United blames this year for the Mayor’s failure to insure the City’s finance department timely closes the municipal books. My own opinion is it all begins with hiring a competent city clerk and empowering that person to do their job instead of attempting to continue covering up the City’s accumulated deficit.
The City’s Docket of Claims featured some very old claims including a 10 month old claim from the Seacoast Echo,which had invoices dated from last April on the Docket presented last night for council approval. The administration explained to the Council that the Echo never sent the invoices to the City until very recently, such a situation literally an epidemic with the City’s vendors per my own anecdotal observations as this is the first thing the Mayor tells the Council about past due bills showing on the claims docket. There is no word yet on whether Fuelman has been caught up so the police department can resume charging their fuel purchases.
And then the meeting progressed to the “fiasco portion” when it was revealed that the City is currently being insured for $17,000,000 total in property coverage while a competing agency was told to quote coverage for $14,000,000 in total which begs the question of exactly how much is the proper amount to insure the City’s assets. This discrepancy effectively tee-peed any chance the City had to actually receive competing, apples-to-apples price quotations as the polices in question expire before the end of this month.
Hancock County Republican Party Chairman Danny Johnson appeared before the Council with a letter from Governor Phil Bryant appointing him as the City’s representative to the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission. But at the January 19, 2016 Council meeting, the Mayor requested the Council ratify “the Mayor’s appointment of Robert Kane to the Commission”. To the extent the State enabling legislation deals with such commissions located in a Municipality it is unclear whether the Bay St Louis Mayor has to the power to appoint anyone to the Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission. This much is clear, Port and Harbor Board President Kane is refusing to step down in protest while Mr. Johnson is promising to raise a stink in Jackson if his gubernatorial appointment to the Port and Harbor Commission is not honored. My thoughts are that this fiasco will be fun to watch unfold.
This is all I have on last night’s recessed meeting but I am certain attendees of last night’s meeting will fill in the other details. Stay tuned.