When it comes to Bay St Louis, WLOX seems to get played more than the rest folks. A compare and contrast is in order, first the WLOX story which relies on one source and that source happens to be the person responsible for the Bay St Louis – Department of Justice disaster:
Mayor Les Fillingame tells us the audit could be complete by the end of the year. Fillingame said DOJ officials indicated they want the city to remain in the drug forfeiture program, despite any potential problems.
Those problems could include not spending the drug forfeiture money the correct way or not documenting the expenditures properly.
If that is found to be the case, the city could be asked to pay back up to $300,000. That money would come from the city’s general fund. Fillingame said he hopes that is not the case.
Now let’s highlight Wes Muller’s story on this matter for the Sun Herald. Muller relied on multiple sources for his story and the difference shows:
“It was pretty simple,” Mike Favre said of the meeting. “We’ve got to put the money back. They’re going back and they’ll discuss whether we get to keep the money once we put it back or if they’re going to take it.”
He said there’s a chance the DOJ could take the $320,000 as “some sort of punishment.”
“We’re still being looked at by other agencies,” he said. “I think one of them is the DOJ’s inspector general, and from what I understand, it won’t be good if they come in. You don’t want them there.”
So not only will the City be required to make the DOJ fund whose cash were misspent by the Fillingame Administration whole it may have to repay the entire thing to the DOJ, which means the City will likely also be kicked out of the program. That sounds serious to me.
The Mayor, as parroted by City Auditor Robert Culumber has been steadfastly maintaining there was not a big problem with the DOJ money because, “the (DOJ) money has been there (in the City accounts) the entire time”. The draft of the audit submitted for City Council approval by Culumber show he modified the findings of the previous audit firm that uncovered the problem to conform it to his take on disaster, which is not supported by the City’s financial records. There are now rumors swirling in Bay St Louis that a group of taxpaying citizens has referred their concerns about deficiencies in the Culumber 2015 Fiscal Year Bay St Louis single audit to the Mississippi State Board of Public Accountancy. Slabbed is working to confirm that rumor. Online records at the Office of the State Auditor do not contain the 2015 report, a final copy of which was submitted to and approved by the City Council late last summer.
Speaking of rumors, one is swirling that Mayor Fillingame yesterday blamed the entire fiasco on deceased former Chief of Police Mike Denardo going so far as to claim that Denardo had forged his signature on the annual financial affidavits submitted to DOJ which showed the restricted funds were still in the bank despite the fact they had been comingled and misspent by the Fillingame Administration. Slabbed has been unable to confirm this rumor with any of the meeting participants.
Denardo was under investigation for Payroll Fraud and selling city owned assault rifles when he took his own life outside the Bay PD station house in early September in a separate disaster for the Fillingame Administration. The FBI, ATF and Hancock County Sheriff are currently investigating those allegations.
Since this post was published I have become aware that several readers have contacted WLOX complaining about the story which aired on this morning’s news. WLOX has since updated their story but the update is itself misleading:
The city council made a move in February to replace the money with funds out of a reserve account. That money has been placed in a separate account flagged for drug forfeiture funds.
While it is true the City Council made that “move”, they also made a move to place a claim against the Fidelity bonds of Mayor Fillinagme and the two previous City Clerks. However, at a subsequent meeting they were advised by DOJ to do nothing until the City’s suspension from the Equitable Sharing program was resolved thus the money was never transferred and the Council rescinded its previous action. Wes Muller factually reports for the Sun Herald that the DOJ fund currently a cash balance of $21,000, a far cry from the $320,000 repayment that must be made.