Mystery Solved & Miscellany: Bay St Louis still has not submitted its 2014 Audit to the Office of State Auditor

As we unraveled this mystery the scene that pops into my mind is Homer Simpson doing his famous DOH after doing something boneheaded.

First up is why is the 2015 audit not online at OSA? The answer is the 2015 audit is in review and that it will not show up until the City gives OSA technical Assistance a copy of its 2014 audit. Further a letter was mailed on February 11, 2016 from the OSA’s Greg Higginbotham which stated:

As of February 5, 2016, this office has not received the Municipality’s Annual Financial Report for the Fiscal Year End 2014. Mississippi Code Section 21-35-31 requires this report to be filed with the State Auditor by September 30 of each year for the preceding calendar year. This statute also provides penalties for Municipalities who fail to file their reports. We ask that you file your report immediately.

We understand that there may be special circumstances causing your filing to be delayed. If this is the case, it is important that you make us aware of these circumstances. Please contact me at 800-321-1275 if the Municipality’s Annual Financial Report will not be forthcoming in the next few days.

If I may be so bold to give Municipal Clerk Gonzales some free advice since the above letter was addressed to the “Municipal Clerk” it would be to grab a large envelope and address it to Greg Higginbotham 501 North West Street, Suite 801, Jackson, MS 39201, put a copy of the 2014 report in that envelope, place the proper amount of postage on the envelope and mail it.

Finally now is a good time for everyone to refresh themselves on the DoJ disaster. First I recommend reading Mayor Fillingame’s veto of the City Council’s first effort to make the Fund whole that was issued back on February 5, 2016. Slabbed’s recap of the February 2, 2016 Council meeting is also well worth revisiting.  All of this will come to a head on or before next Tuesday’s council meeting.

That entire early February 2016 time period was action packed.  That is still not a good reason to ignore correspondence from OSA on an audit  report that was issued months before.

78 thoughts on “Mystery Solved & Miscellany: Bay St Louis still has not submitted its 2014 Audit to the Office of State Auditor”

  1. I would offer an educated guess that the reason that audit has been deliberately withheld from the Office of the State Auditor by the Bay St. Louis City Officials, is because it is the one where the city’s independent auditor discovered the DOJ Fund misappropriation and another involving even more funds than the DOJ.
    The other one is, according to Wright, Ward, Hatten, & Guel, and upheld by the Office of the State Auditor in their Performance Audit of this year, is an illegal loan the city took at The First Bank branch in Bay St. Louis, to cover $358,000 in missing utility payments.
    This was all covered in the Sea Coast Echo of Oct. 2012, when the two Utility Authorities the city contracts with, Solid Waste and the Hancock County Utillity Authority started reporting to the press that the city was 3 months behind in payments to them (June, July, and August of 2013) amounting to $358,000.
    When the city could not make these payments by the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, 2013, or by the end of the grace period, Oct. 30, the Mayor, City Clerk, and Attorney talked Council into a loan to pay it off. One problem here: the loan was taken out on November 26, 2013, and the bills were for the previous fiscal year–illegal under state law. Those unpaid bills should have been rolled over into the new budget as expenses. But, the Council was told the loan was for “current” expenses!!!!!!
    And there was really no need for a loan to begin with because the Bay St. Louis utility users had sent their payments to City Hall Utility Dept. ???!!! Where did $358,000 go for 3 consecutive months??!!!
    And guess who had to pay the loan? You guessed it— the Bay St. Louis utility users!! So, they paid twice for June, July, and August of 2013–when they sent their payments in good faith, and when the city officials stuck them with a loan to cover the missing money. And, it is still missing, because there has never to this date been an accounting for it.
    But, even though the State Auditor’s Office still doesn’t have the official audit from the City Clerk, they have the “smoking gun.” And that is going to make this even worse than the DOJ mess!!
    Let’s see, the missing DOJ funds are now at $320,000 plus $358,000 in missing utility payments, we are talking about some real money here, folks–$678,000.
    Did they really think just stalling the Office of the State Auditor even after a demand letter for their audit, was going to make this go away?
    The Hancock County Alliance for Good Government and Slabbed News Media have all the documents if anyone wants verification and is interested in reviewing them.
    As one high ranking State Official told me, and I quote, “this is very, very serious.”
    I am convinced.
    Stay tuned.

    1. Minutes, audits, resolution, loan document. All public records and legitimately obtained through the internet
      and Public Records Request.
      One piece of information I would like to add to be completely open and accurate is one Councilman, Ward V, Boudin, voted against the resolution for the loan, and was quoted in Cassandra Favre’s story in the Echo
      that he was uncomfortable collecting the people’s money, doing something else with it, and then sticking them with a loan!

  2. Pull the mayor’s bond, the clerk’s bond. Pay the bills.
    Why that hasn’t been done yet is the fault of the council.

  3. You just have to hope that sooner or later, someone in law enforcement will step up and do something to stop these shenanigans.
    Obviously, the city council isn’t going to.

  4. They have to follow the advice of OSA, DOJ, SO and AG. Otherwise they will end up in the same boat as Les and Company. Good things are worth waiting on. He will not be able to lie and blame others anymore.

      1. I was trying to think of the right Three Stooges link but just went ahead like this.

        Yeah,,,there’s a whole lot to unwrap here….

        :-)

        1. I hope you weren’t driving and looking at your phone when that one landed. When I realized I had bungled the hot link but that you were looking at what you saw…it would be tantalizing to say the least…

          :-)

            1. Seriously, everyone needs to be safe on the roads. Distracted driving is no joke.

              That comment with links to the statutes wasn’t much compared to some of the others…like this one imo.

              In this case “Whoomp there it is” should let you know there is something big on the way, especially if you know what an EMMA link means. Kind of like the one this summer that started with “Attention blog operator!”

  5. Fact :
    The mayor is now saying that the city Will Not have to pay the DOJ back because him & blowjeaux sent in a plan to fix that rat infested police station.
    Something Lonnie was working on.
    Lord I hope Mr. Boykin , DOJ, isn’t drinking that sewage!!!

    1. But just imagine, Fact or Fiction, if the DOJ money hadn’t been moved to apparently cover up a $300,000 shortfall at the end of fiscal year 2011, the Police Station could have been renovated by now.
      Then again in Fiscal Year 2013, the folks get stuck with a $500,000 loan to cover their utility payments they had already sent to City Hall!??
      The Mayor wants to operate as if Council doesn’t exist.
      And that is one of the things the State Auditor warned him about when she addressed them last February–
      “everybody has to know their role in this form of government, and Council is by law responsible for the finances, and the administration has to communicate honestly with them in order for them to carry out their responsibilities.
      And she said it in English. I was sitting right behind her.
      So, what does Hizzonna do a month later? Give out pay raises without Council approval!!!!
      Somebody call the doctor!!!

      1. Exactly. What was so hard about using the money as the law prescribed, and as affidavits were signed attesting to, in the first place? City, county and state governments all over the country manage to do it with no problem. It’s hard to picture DOJ deciding this was an honest mistake. I think that it a severe case of misplaced optimism to believe DOJ is going to laugh this one off and let BSL keep the money.

  6. Fact / Fiction
    The $1,000,000 loan in 2010 was to pay city hall off. Everything FEMA didn’t pay.
    Problem is FEMA paid all but $700,000-$800,000.
    What happened to the $2/$300,000 extra.
    Was this the beginning of mis using funds?????
    Interesting Sherlock

    1. Is there a claim by the state against BSL from 2008 which is still unresolved (and possibly not even on the books ?

      According to the document posted at EMMA (see “Whoomp There It Is” link above) there is mention of a state check allegedly in the amount of $35,346.16* which was allegedly issued in error to the City of BSL in 2008. Allegedly the check was deposited, this amount was recognized as revenue and spent by BSL FY 2008. The state apparently wanted to be reimbursed. Apparently the issue was still unresolved as of 2014. What was this money spent on? Has is been recorded on the books and/or repaid yet?

      * See SECTION II – FINANCIAL STATEMENT FINDINGS 2014-006: Payroll recordkeeping and reporting Prior year finding which is on page 82 of the pdf.

  7. This all reminds me of an article I read many years ago about corruption at Bell City, CA.
    Same problem when elected official use the taxpayers money for rewards to personnel that did not deserve it. Greed has not been conquered and never will when persons realize they can get away with malfeasance and not be held accountable. The State Auditor is a joke waiting for someone to laugh. What is the old standbys, you cannot convict stupidity.

  8. You are so right, REDD, but now the State Auditor knows ALL. So, it is time for him to get up off of his back fourth, and put his staff to work to make the people of Bay St. Louis whole again. Right now they are a Place coming Apart!

  9. Les the loser or liar depending on what is going on at the time is well aware of his legal problems. He looks awful red faced and bloated. Starting to look like Charlie.

  10. Will this horrible debacle ever be resolved? The council needs to grow a pair and do the right thing? Where is the new City Attorney????

    1. This letter from the Office of the State Auditor had better be on the agenda for this coming Tuesday preferably under the Attorney’s Report since they were cited for being in violation of a Sate law by OSA in the letter.
      They cannot jeopardize the public by snubbing their noses at the law like Randy Ponder told them about the illegal use of golf carts on the streets.
      Les said they allow it because it is popular.
      It won’t be popular if OSA decides to levy a sales tax penalty on the city for non compliance.

  11. Confirmed from the office of State Auditor, Stacey Pickering–Bay St. Louis has submitted their 2014 audit to the state.
    See what a little healthy exposure can do?
    That’s the name of the game from now on.

      1. He was on WLOX tonight in a story about the train service. He looked very very tired.

        Last week at the workshop he was very cordial. He never breaks character, a quality the great Mick Foley would extol in his first book. I respect that about Hizzoner.

        Tomorrow’s Council meeting should be good.

          1. So far they have not been able ” to produce documentation to assure the funds are either there or were spent on the Police Department, as required by statute.”
            Taken from the DOJ report.

      2. Our pleasure, rfp. In fact, we may start making these services more frequent with our public officials.
        Friendly reminders!’

        1. Think how much money might have been saved! All the people at City Hall could have been looking for the missing audit instead of actually doing the taxpayers business.

          All it took was a dose of Slabbed.

  12. After witnessing the discussion between the Council, Mayor, and City Attorney last night on the missing and unaccounted for Department of Justice Police Funds in the city of Bay St.Louis, I would advise any citizen considering running for Council next year to find something better to do with their time. It is not worth the risk. Just my opinion.

    1. I thought the same about anyone who applied to be Chief of Police. Are you sure you want that job? You’re going to come in and have two sets of employees. The ones who knew what was going on and kept their mouthes shut and the ones who were too dumb to know what was going on.

      1. This entire county of only 45,000 residents only needs one policing agency–the county sheriff with departments in each municipality.
        We have too much government in this poor county. But no one wants to
        give up their fiefdom!
        We centralized all tax collections to the Courthouse under one tax collector and that is working fine.
        This is not personal but seems to be being made so.

  13. Time out for a little humor in the midst of all of the Christmas tension and political madness in Bay St. Louis right now as their Council seeks the resolution to the payback demand issued to the city by the Department of Justice:
    Spoke to both City Attorney, Trent Favre, Tuesday briefly after the meeting, and Greg Higginbotham at State Auditor’s office this morning on the question of the city’s Municipal Reserve Fund being an appropriate and legal remedy for the $320,00 payback demand.
    Let me say right up front that I have known Trent before he was born, and he is a fine man, working his boodie off for the city right now.
    Greg also seems like a nice young man. Always helpful and ready to answer questions.
    They both agree the use of the Reserve Fund to pay the DOJ for Mayor Fillingame and his clerk at the time, David Kolf’s (and I am using Kolf’s name here only because there have been so many clerks in the last few years, I do not want to cast dispersion in the wrong direction) co-mingling of the DOJ funds as stated by the DOJ is appropriate because the citizens still “enjoyed the benefits” of the money for other things.” I doubt that was very consoling to the DOJ, but that is the reasoning I was given.
    I, personally disagree that the city “enjoyed” anything due to the fact that the safety of the citizens was compromised, in my opinion, with their Police Fund used elsewhere, eliminating the possibility of unbudgeted Police needs being met. These funds are earmarked under Federal statue for Police Department needs only.
    The chuckle here is Greg’s one example of how the city could have enjoyed the money if the Mayor and Clerk bought a back hoe with the DOJ funds. Sorry, but that got a big laugh out of me! I can just imagine a citizen calling 911 for help, and instead of dispatching a Police Car, help is coming on a back hoe. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that.
    For your own research on the appropriate use of Municipal Reserve Funds, Greg did provide me with this statute: Miss. Code: 21-35-22.
    Sometimes a little humor goes a long way, not that it softens the blow for the citizens of Bay St. Louis being reduced to being the bail bondsmen for their public officials.

      1. Observer,
        No. By law could only be spent on Police. Mayor and Clerk, according to DOJ, lacked documents to prove that!
        We can only speculate!

  14. Fact:
    I believe there is a surety bond on elected officials & it does not have to be criminal to go after their bond.
    Fact :
    I Do Believe signing FALSE Affidavits is illegal.
    Moving funds without councils approval.
    Closing accounts without councils approval.
    Misspending Federal Funds.
    These are all illegal & break local , state & federal laws.
    Where the hell is the DA???
    Fact :
    Maybe this needs to be sent to every police dept. that is in this program & evey news paper in this country & ask how this administration got away with breaking all the rules set up for spending these funds.
    Fact :
    Not only did this administration put BSL in jeopardy but the entire program.
    Fact :
    This is a great program that is set up to help our men & women that put their lives on the line everyday!!!

    1. Fact R Fiction,
      The most wonderful of programs can be destroyed when deceitful minds get in control of them.
      Bay Council needs to file a writ for what they were accused of on the record Tuesday night.
      I witnessed it.

  15. Fact R Fiction
    Although the funds were moved without Council’s knowledge, allegedly, if & when they were spent …. Council approved the expenditures, albeit unknowingly…. in my opinion. The taxpayers have spent a fortune on audits & not one has noticed. Several meetings ago, Mike Favre asked why he didn’t see something or another as a line item on the Council’s report. Cissy answered that it was entered as a “due to” “due from” item on the City’s books as an inner fund transfer or something & therefore wouldn’t appear as a line item….kind of made me go hhhmmmm

  16. Trixie,
    It is no longer “alledgely” that the DOJ funds were unrestricted and moved without Council approval.
    According to the final Performance Audit Report from OSA, dated June 15, 2016, after a document review the OSA determined these funds were unrestricted and moved into the General Fund without authorization of the council, and further this transaction was not communicated to the city’s independent auditing firm.
    The DOJ has confirmed this, the funds have to be paid back due this violation of the terms regulating a Federal Grant.
    Council now has to see how those who deceived them and the auditing firm the taxpayers fund to audit the city books, will pay this back.
    This cannot and should not be on the backs of the taxpayers who had no knowledge of it!

  17. Lana,
    I’ve never questioned the Council’s knowledge of the transfer, but $320,000 was spent. It trickled through the different accounts & that’s why I said “unknowingly”. It’s embarrassing when you get up at a meeting to inform the Council of yet something else they were unaware of. As a citizen I’m thankful for your dedication.

  18. I think the new rule for council members when it comes to Les and his clerks spending, moving, creating, losing, etc. money is going to have to be, “You really just can’t ask too many questions”.

  19. The council has asked all the right questions. The Mayor just told lie after lie. The Truth is not in him. Now it is just family tradition to lie!

  20. I just have a sneaking suspicion that when all of this is over, the only people who will be punished for these illegal acts, are going to be the taxpayers, through higher tax rates.

  21. So Lana, you are saying the State Auditor and Trent both agree that the Reserve fund can be used to pay back the money? I guess Trent found a loophole to get his friend David off the hook and not go after his bond??

    1. The argument on both their parts is that the taxpayers “enjoyed” the money. Higginbotham used the backhoe as an example of how the money, though misappropriated, was “enjoyed” by the taxpayers.
      If this argument flies with the bonding company, the result could be that Fillingame and Kolf walk.
      My question is if it were illegal for Council to authorize dockets for payment with the use of DOJ funds, wasn’t it illegal for Kolf and Fillingame to present them for payment knowing the DOJ funds were being used to pay them.
      You see, according to the State Auditor’s Performance Report, from Sept. 30,2011 to August 18, 2015, Fillingame and Kolf had this knowledge and never shared it with Council.
      Malfeasance: to take authority you don’t possess to commit an act, and conceal it from those who do have the authority.
      I could be wrong, butI don’t think this is over by a long shot.

      1. One more very important point:
        If Favre and Higginbotham are still of the opinion that the folks ” enjoyed” the misappropriated money, so it’s not such a big deal that us was moved by Fillingame and Kolf, then why didn’t Fillgame and Kolf just advise Council on September 11,2011, that they were moving the DOJ funds to the General Fund for Council to pay bills because ” the folks are going to enjoy it?!”
        If that’s the position of these 4 gentlemen now, it should have been from the beginning??!!

        1. Les n Kolf don’t have justice they practiced “Just Is”! Bobby and Doug still onboard with Les. They need a pay check. They don’t want to make decisions they act as if they are worried about the next council. Yet they have no problem passing on the debt and criminal actions they participated in by allowing it to happen! Drain the Swamp!

  22. Well Lana if that walks with “enjoyed” what about the money from Waste Water and other funds? Did the people of BSL “enjoy” that also??
    I hope we don’t have another Rafferty with Trent to protect the ones he wants to and not follow the law. Sure thought there was hope with Trent, but one never knows until it is too late.
    Rafferty found a loophole and got a murderer off, now Trent is finding loopholes. He is supposed to be watching over to make sure everything is done above and beyond what is legal and in the best interest of the People. He is too close to David to get involved with this. Maybe he should recuse himself on opinions??

    1. Well, that’s the question, BSL Taxpayer, “Did you “enjoy” paying your utility bill twice in June, July, and. August of 2013 due to your payments not being forwarded to the agencies that provided the services?
      Remember, you sentnylur payments to City Hall Utility
      Dept. There has never been an accounting of what happened to your money, and when they
      got exposed by the Utility
      companies they owed the money to, they made an illegal loan in your name to pay the money you already sent them.
      I know you “enjoyed” that, at least that’s what you’ll be told when this comes to a head this year!
      If that ever happens to me in Waveland, no one responsible for handling my payments is going to “enjoy” it!

  23. Cities can get answers to any of these questions in the form of legal opinions from the Attorney General’s office. It’s just that they don’t ask because they know they aren’t going to like the answer and they can’t claim ignorance
    afterwards.

  24. I can’t tell you how much I “enjoy” paying the additional $13 month that is not getting directed properly either…
    Who is “enjoying” the money we have paid and not paid to proper entity?? please explain this to me Trent?

  25. Trent didn’t do it but he is charged with getting it straightened out. He may have conflict with Kolf but may need to recuse himself which is understandable.

    1. Actually, I am not sure Trent is responsible for getting all of this straightened out. We have a state agency, The State Auditor, who can hold officials responsible for how they handle public money.
      Trent just has to convey to all of those who handle public money what is expected of them under the law, and if they choose to do otherwise, he’s done all he can.
      True, this happened before his time as city attorney, but going forward he has to be neutral and let the Council and bonding company work this out. The City Council used the taxpayers money to purchase the surety bonds for situations like this, and as far as I am concerned, this issue is between the Council and the bonding company no matter what anyone’s opinion is.
      One thing for sure is this CANNOT be the financial responsibility of the taxpayers. They had no idea their police funds and utility payments were being misappropriated.
      Making the taxpayers pay for all of this would be like prosecuting the teller in a bank robbery instead of the guy who took the money!!

      1. Les commingled the funds so as not to show it on the balance sheet. I’m not sure if the council even knew it was there. Les Lies, Les Does that has been his and his former attorney’s position. We may have done it prove it!

        Drain The Swamp!

    2. Law enforcement and the state auditor are respondible for getting it straightened out. Trent’s job is too make sure the hole doesn’t get dug deeper.

      1. And I would hope they would all dedicate themselves to seeing that no one responsible for these actions found a way out of the “hole” in order to dump the taxpayers in it and shovel the dirt in their faces!!!!

  26. As a taxpayer, I am not in favor of Bailing the City out. The council and DOJ needs to decide on using the Bonding Agency for the City Mayor and Employees to pay the money back and not use our Reserve Fund or ask us to pay it. The people responsible for misappropriating the funds should be held accountable and if the Mayor losses his job, “so be it” that is the price he has to pay to us living in BSL and paying taxes here. He has to be held accountable for his actions.
    Unfortunately if David, and other clerks, drank the Kool Aid and had creative accounting for Les, then they have to suffer the consequences. Unless Les throws them under the bus as he is trying to do with DeNardo. They better realize the situation and help themselves out of this mess.

    1. As one BSL taxpayer asked me last week,” I know everyone is debating who pays back this miappropriation by the Mayor and his clerks, but the bigger question is–what was done with all of this missing money?! Where did it go?!
      Between DOJ and missing utility payments it is $658,000.
      What happened to it?

      1. That is the $658,000 question. Just because it is missing does not logically result in an assumption, or even a presumption, that it was spent for the taxpayers’ benefit.

  27. Where oh Where has the Money Gone??? How many times do we have to ask this??
    His budget is too big and he has to supplement it with funds from other departments. That is what I see. Robbing Peter to pay Paul. If money is put into other accounts, then those accounts need to be budgeted better. But this is probably HUSH money to employees we don’t need and Les wants to keep around.

    What we really need is a TOTAL evaluation in each department to cut costs and overhead. We are spending more than we receive.

    Have you seen the salaries of employees in Building Dept.? Maybe slab should publish this. Charlie receives more money than most Building inspectors on the Coast, plus health benefits and can’t get certified. They have 4 people in there. Flood person, 2 inspectors and Charlie plus secretary. Building inspector should be certified in construction and Flood issues and that way eliminate one position there and cut costs. I haven’t even looked at other departments.
    If combining the Sheriff with Police and we save money I say do it. The city has to bite the bullet and trim the Fat. Get back on target with their income and spending habits. Simple as that.
    HAPPY NEW YEAR !!! I hope 2017 gets better and Les is Out of here !!!!

    1. How many more salaries are being paid to people who don’t work for the city any more? How much more payroll fraud, or busted invoice fraud (which payroll fraud is just a version of) has occurred? Something made DeNardo think he could get away with it. I wonder if it was seeing Les get away with it with other “employees”. Money stolen is not money “enjoyed” by the taxpayers.

      Where…did…the…money…go?

  28. Les pays over time as hush money for various reasons and one of them is believed to be to keep quit about Lil Les Daddy Said not working a full day every day.

    Lil Les Daddy Said is taking years of vacation and leave that was not reported as used in the past years. I believe that the investigation will clearly show that.

  29. I sure don’t enjoy paying the additional $13.00 a month for Les’ mistakes. How long will this last, then the money is not put in the appropriate fund to pay what this was dedicated for.
    This has to stop…..

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