Last night’s Bay St Louis Council Meeting Saw both Fur and Mookie Stinks Fly. Slabbed adds James Carville to the fun.

Those of you that followed the Slabbed Twitter feed last night were treated to some fireworks as I live blogged the City Council meeting. Outgoing City Attorney / Harrison County resident Donald Rafferty had a bit of a meltdown over the residency requirement now in effect for the City Attorney position as he repeatedly clashed with the City Council on Mayor Fillingame’s behalf. I thought Mayor Fillingame and Mr. Rafferty stooped particularly low when the newly enacted SB2587 and its applicability to Bay St Louis’ perpetually interim Chief Building Official Charles Oliver was discussed when both accused the Council of conducting a personal vendetta against Oliver, who has never been able to pass the basic test to gain certification as a Municipal Building Official.

More interesting to me was Mr. Rafferty terming the new state law a “knee jerk reaction” while essentially advising the Council to ignore it for now. Mr. Rafferty and the Mayor couched the new law as ambiguous predicting the Attorney General will interpret it in such a way as to make it effectively meaningless. What is clear is the intent of the law is to stop Mayors in Mayor-Council forms of government from placing their unqualified political cronies in crucial positions such as Police Chief, Fire Chief, Chief Building Official on a perpetually interim basis and stems from an epic battle between Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny Dupree and the Hattiesburg City Council which Mayor Dupree lost.1

But as the Council went over how Oliver was hired into the position for which he is not qualified, replacing a highly qualified individual, there was an attempt to revise history by the Mayor, who steadfastly denied last night that he fired Oliver’s certificated predecessor so we need to start with Hizzoner’s favorite media outlet, WLOX and his main man Al Showers, who was MIA last night. As per normal Mayor Fillingame couched the maneuver in terms of cost savings:

The mayor estimates the cuts will save the city between $150,000 and $160,000 a year in salaries and benefits. There are now five employees left in the building department: three inspectors and two clerical workers.

“The majority of the activity in Bay St. Louis is residential construction. And the staffing that remains can very adequately handle all of the residential side of the construction process.”

Building Official Ronald Jones was the second highest paid employee in the city, with a $65,000 salary. Only the mayor made more, at $80,000 a year.

Charles Oliver, the man who oversees residential construction projects for the city, has been named the city’s interim Building Official.

As for whether or not Fillingame fired Oliver’s predecessor Ronald Jones the Seacoast Echo was pretty clear on that when the event occurred:

Bay St. Louis Building Official Ron Jones, the second highest-paid person at City Hall, lost his job this week in what Mayor Les Fillingame characterized as a cost-cutting measure.

Fillingame said Jones, who was paid $65,000-per-year, will not be replaced immediately. His job will be filled in the interim by Charles Oliver, a building inspector who earns $45,000 per year.

As building official, Jones had been second in salary only to the mayor, who makes more than $80,000 annually. Other city hall administrators and department heads are paid considerably less than Jones.

However, Jones holds a master’s degree and numerous professional certifications, which Oliver does not. “He’s working on getting his certifications. We’re going to help him,” Fillingame said of Oliver.

Jones’ last day on the job was to be Friday. As building official, he ran a department that issues building permits and handles code inspections on commercial and residential building projects. The department has been important in the city’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

City Hall sources said Fillingame approached the City Council in executive session during its regular meeting Tuesday, and informed members that Jones was being let go. The council has no actual authority over city personnel, but does sign off on issues involving department heads.

So this is how we ended up with one of the Mayor’s cronies as “Interim” Chief Building Official five plus years ago, replacing a fired employee that had a masters degree and various certifications including commercial, which the Mayor himself admitted at the time that Oliver lacked. Now the better question is why does Charles Oliver and the Bay Building Department keep coming up at the Council meetings? That’s simple folks, under Oliver’s leadership the building department has become a shambles. It is at this point I must use Bay St Louis’ own James Carville to illustrate.

Bay St Louis' Resident National Talking Head James Carville
Bay St Louis’ Resident National Talking Head James Carville

Carville rebuilt a getaway house and guest house on what the locals knew as Pete Fountain’s property there on the Bay of St Louis. Just down  Beach Boulevard from the Carvilles are permanent residents in the Thorpe family that have a nice house on the Bay. The Thorpes bought the lot behind their house and joined it to their existing land making in essence one big lot for property taxation purposes. They then began constructing a guest house on the newly joined parcel and that is where the trouble began having to deal with the Bay St Louis Building Department. For further context it is important to understand that Ron Thorpe is a member of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government and frequent Board meeting attendee. What follows is a romp through the municipal runaround but first we have to explain how the Carvilles fit.

Above I hope everyone notices the Carville’s were able to construct their getaway residence and guest house, both very well done connected to each other via pathway.  When the place was built, from the outside looking in it appears that Mr and Mrs Carville’s contractor did a great job on the construction in very short order with no apparent holdups from the Bay Building Department.  For Mr. Thorp however since his house and guesthouse were not joined by a covered walkway the building department would not issue a permit, even after the Thorpes were granted a special use exception by the City Council. The lack of consistency is glaring given the obvious parallels to what the Carville’s did with the apparent blessing of the Building Department but the only consistency with the Building Department is inconsistency. Of course the Thorpes documented everything and its classic Les Fillingame passive aggression in action.

Click to Obtain 9 Page pdf
Click to Obtain 9 Page pdf

ThorpeDocuments

For me I look at the above as one of a long line of citizen complaints I’ve received about the Bay Building Department since Slabbed began covering municipal affairs in late 2013. Local architect Michael Reeves can cite a veritable litany of horror stories involving noncompliance with the American with Disabilities Act but like the Mayor told the media in 2011 commercial construction wasn’t his friend’s best subject. And against that backdrop we have the City Attorney terming the Mississippi Legislature’s attempt to purge professional positions in local government of unqualified, perpetually interim appointed political cronies as “knee jerk”. Based on what I saw last night Mr. Rafferty had one of those words dead on but not both.

The meeting then turned to the unauthorized raises the Mayor has been handing out to City employees like new comptroller Sissy Gonzales, who from all appearances is really the City Clerk but that position is being staffed by Paula Fairconnetue, a lady with a background in marketing rather than accounting that has turned into another perpetually interim Department Head. (Mayor Fillinagme’s refusal to hire a qualified City Clerk per the Council’s ordinance on the subject is another post). In Ms. Gonzales’ case the Council authorized the Controllers position in the budget at $48,000/year salaried. The Mayor is paying her hourly with copious amounts of overtime at an annual straight time rate of somewhere between $52,000 and $54,000 (I heard both numbers last night). Mayor Fillingame never sought Council approval for the budgetary change or for the change in the related payroll ordinance for the comptroller’s position. It’s pretty cut and dried folks but then again when the one of the best criminal defense attorneys in the State of Mississippi acts as the Mayor’s personal legal council instead of as City Attorney nothing is cut and dried and Mr. Rafferty tried his best to evade and avoid the hard questions such as those posed by an exasperated Councilman Mike Favre. It was at that point I had to document the jackassery live on Periscope. (Sorry for the audio problems folks I’m working on that).

After those fireworks the Council held an executive session on engaging special council to file a Writ of Mandamus to force the Mayor to comply with the Municipal Payroll ordinance. The Council took no action in executive session but Councilman Seal moved to send the financial detail to the State Auditor’s Office requesting an expedited review. It’s a certainty the next OSA division to show up at City Hall will be the Investigative Division as Mayor Fillingame seems hellbent on ignoring the City Council, the municipal budget and related payroll ordinance.

Finally both Heather Ladner of Butler Snow and Trent Favre of Jones Walker have offered to assist the City in an advisory capacity while the search for a permanent replacement for outgoing City Attorney Rafferty is conducted per Council President Falgout. After the meeting last night, certain members of the Alliance for Good Government expressed reservations to me about Mr. Favre, citing his defense in the social media of his “Brother in Christ”, former City Clerk David Kolf, whose bond the Council is now pursuing due to his role in the misappropriation of the Department of Justice Forfeiture funds.

I’ve never been much on mixing my government with religion, especially given Mr. Kolf’s very unchristian like behavior calling citizens such as the late Carrol Gordon a clown among other very unprofessional, childish outbursts for which he became notorious among Council meeting attendees. My own opinion is at this juncture the City needs someone to represent it, not the Mayor against the Council and certainly not former employees involved in the misappropriation of over $300,000 in public funds. I suspect there will be more chatter about that in the run up to the next City Council meeting.

Finally Stacey Cato was also there last night taking copious amounts of notes so the Saturday story for the Echo that should make for some good reading as well. I’m looking forward to it. Stay tuned.

  1. Traveling Judge L. Breland Hilburn Presiding

21 thoughts on “Last night’s Bay St Louis Council Meeting Saw both Fur and Mookie Stinks Fly. Slabbed adds James Carville to the fun.”

  1. For those who attend those meetings regularly like the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government, last night’s fiasco regarding the firing of the City Attorney, made us think back to the past 3 years. Rafferty has given that Council some pretty pathetic advice that has been detrimental to the taxpayers of Bay St. Louis. One case in point, the illegal loan to The First Bank in Nov. of 2013. That was to cover accounts payable that they could not pay by the end of the grace period of their 2013 fiscal year. He sat there and let his client break the law. In fact, when I asked them for the statutory authority for that loan, he could not find it on his famous laptop. So a few days later he sent me a stack of paperwork that I guess in his mind justified the loan. It didn’t come near it, and now the independent auditing firm and Office of the State Auditor have both cited the city officials for it. Public officials cannot, I repeat CANNOT, put a loan on the backs of the taxpayers to cover accounts payable that they cannot clear up by Oct. 30 of the new fiscal year. They cannot borrow money for this purpose. They have to roll over anything they cannot pay by 10-30 as an expense, and amend their budget. This procedure is clearly stated and easily found in the Accounting Manual for Municipalities in Miss. The incumbents on that Council also should have known this, but they sat there and listened to “you know who!” Sheeple. This bad advice costs a lot of money too.
    Now, Rafferty may not know governmental law, but one thing I am convinced he does know is people. He knew he had the majority of that Council eating out of his hand. But his people skills were soon to be challenged because the two newly elected Councilmen in 2013, Falgout and Favre were going to prove to be able to stand on their own two feet, something Rafferty and Fillingame were not prepared for.
    The situation has progressed from bad advice to just not performing the request made by the Council, for example, not contacting the bonding companies of Filligame, Kolf, and Smith, as requested two weeks ago to alert them to a potential revoking of the surety bonds of these 3 individuals pending the ruling of the Department of Justice and payment of the $300,000 in Equitable Sharing Funds that the State Auditor’s office has confirmed was moved by Fillingame without knowledge of Council, from its restricted account to the general fund, and spent on who knows what?!
    Mr. Rafferty cannot be shocked by last night’s Council action. Frustrated and embarrassed professionally, maybe, but not shocked.
    The dialogue got pretty heated as these guys called Fillingame and Rafferty on the Interim official law, unauthorized pay raises, and operating the city within the confines of the adopted budget.
    They, even the sheeple, are a different group of officials now that Sam Atkinson has educated them.
    She is the worst thing that has happened to Fillingame in the last 7 years of his life, trust me.
    We’ll see how long the expedited review of the pay schedules takes by the State Auditor’s office, and what else it will uncover. Pickering may as well set up an office in the Bay.
    I was also shocked when Council Pres. Falgout asked the Police Chief to remove Rafferty from the room and the Chief said no, not until you file a complaint??!! They sure didn’t need a filed complaint to remove Jeff Harding from the Chambers the night he was escorted out!!!
    This city needs leadership, and I hope the voters of Bay St. Louis have the good sense to provide themselves with it in next year’s election.
    That is how we cured our ills in Waveland. We took care of it at the polls.

    1. Yes it shows us we need to farm out several departments at $hitty Hall. And funny the guy that prosecuted me got a different treatment than I did…I was no where near the disturbance the Don was.

  2. Carville’s new getaway house will probably cause a lot of Bay St.Louis residents to buy getaway houses in Destin. I know I would as anybody who would work to elect the Clinton filth not once but twice stinks like a 3 week old gaftop on the beach.

    1. I’ve seen him coming out of Morgan Shands liquor store toting Makers 94. Anyone that likes Makers 94 can’t be all bad Lockie.

  3. The chief does not have the guts it takes to be the top cop. He obviously was afraid of Raff n Les. He does not have a standard. Everything done with law and enforcement is selective in BSL. That is abundantly clear. He is cool and cordial but will put you under the bus if it pleases those he needs to please. He was equally guilty in the equitable sharing fund. He should have protected the publics interest. He did not care until it started implicating him. We started cleaning up the mess with the attorney now we need to just keep moving forward with the rest of the problems.

  4. When we have a Police Chief with double standards, yes it is time for the Council to start looking to fill this position.. This is a man that should be above the law, but I guess he is a Les (yes) man also.

  5. Mike is between a rock and a hard place, the only person affected is me, I understand and consider him a friend…. I believe policies have been put in place after my fiasco and protocol was being followed that evening.

  6. That’s fair enough but should have been explained to those at the meeting Tuesday.
    What were those who saw him escort you out at Compretta’s request suppose to think when he tells the new Council President to file a formal complaint.
    Maybe it will get cleared up this coming Tuesday.

  7. Dear Dumped On and Outraged,
    Before you make such radical statements about our “Top Cop” I would like to enlighten you both to the facts. The State Auditor reported in open meeting that the Department of Justice account was closed and the money put into the general fund on September 30, 2011. Chief DeNardo did not take office until October, 2011. There was no evidence to him that there had ever been a separate DOJ account. Also, the Auditors and Samantha Atkinson of the Office of State Auditors, stated in open meeting repeatedly that Chief Mike DeNardo kept impeccable records and had all appropriate policies and procedures in place for his department. I think your comments are out of line and uninformed. Chief DeNardo signed paperwork every year verifying the amount that was sent to the city for the DOJ fund. It was the Mayor that stated that the funds were available to the police department, when they were not. when it was time to buy police cars, it was discovered that the Administration had not kept those funds separate, and that the funds were gone. Chief DeNardo runs a tight ship, and I respect him very much so I must protest your accusations against him. Implying that he is in any way responsible for the mess that this city is in financially is both irresponsible and actually, (to put it nicely) down right IGNORANCE on your part.
    Libby Garcia

    1. I have never indicated DeNardo was responsible for the fiasco the city is in. He is a good police chief. my only complaint is his double standard. Maybe when he did not remove Rafferty from the room he should have given a full explanation to the public as to his actions as to why he could not do what was asked of him. But then, who is he to decide what individual and offense follows under their new rule for removal. Rafferty caused more problems than Jeff. Then to make a statement file a complaint? The problem needs to be addressed at the time of the incident, not days later. The person causing problems needs to be removed immediately.

    2. Libby,
      You are not even a citizen of Bay Saint Louis. You dont even have a vote. As a matter of fact your business does not pay property tax either. But I guess that is another issue. If you want to call ignorance we can start with some of your short comings.

  8. Thank you Libby. The comments were uninformed and out of line. “He did not care until it started implicating him.” – REALLY!!? How many past police chiefs attended every meeting? I’m sure he stands with someone who covers his mistakes by spending DOJ on cronies and illegal loans rather than covering the men and women who protect this city with up to date training and equipment to do their jobs. What happened to “Poolman” was wrong and an embarrassment to this city but a sensible policy has come out of it. Now little Napoleons will have to back up their posturing. I stand with our police and this chief.

  9. Outraged,
    What new rule for removal are you referring to? I attend every meeting and have not witnessed the Council (the legislative, rule making, branch of the government) pass any “new rule for removal from a meeting.”
    I hope on Tuesday night we can get a date referenced from the Council as to when this was proposed, voted on, and took effect and hope it can be found in the minutes.
    Have never heard Council discuss it since the Harding incident.
    Making up the rules as we go along is never in the best interest of the people, and accounts for 99% of what’s wrong with that city, financially and otherwise.

  10. One person said that there was a policy change or new rule for removal. It’s quite possible that the Chief realized that he shouldn’t have removed Poolman so quickly & figured out a better way to handle the same type of situation.

  11. Cajuncutie,
    The Chief, who I like very much, ( nice guy running a good force of first responders)
    did not “decide” to remove Mr. Harding from the Council meeting. I was there. He responded to the request of then Council President, Compretta.
    This is the enigma before those in attendance last Tuesday when he did not respond likewise to current Council President, Falgout to remove the City Attorney.
    There very well may be an explanation coming at this Tuesday’s meeting.
    The public is, I believe, entitled to an explanation.

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