Time to move on from the DoJ Disaster

To borrow an old fashioned metaphor, there has been a lot of ink spilled over the mishandling of the Equitable Sharing Grant by the Fillingame Administration, a grant violation that resulted in one dedicated audit along with a performance audit that confirmed what Slabbed has been saying since late 2013: The Fillingame Administration can’t handle money. From bringing the City to the verge of default on its water and sewer bonds to using the resulting $13 debt service surcharge added to everyone’s monthly water bill to pay general city expenses the examples of the Mayor’s financial mismanagement are legion as are the casualties, figuratively in the parade of City Clerks turned over by the City to go with one police chief. Worse are the active investigations into Payroll Fraud among other crimes alleged to have been perpetrated by city employees centered in the Police Department.

Organizationally when the Mayor exhibits a complete disregard for the financial portions of the state home rule statute the allegations of impropriety should not surprise. State Auditor Stacey Pickering termed the phenomenon a “Culture of Corruption”. Slabbed covered it in the organizationally corrupt Department of Marine Resources. To quote the late Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again” in the Bay.

Now we’ve entered election season and its time for the public to be asking questions and arming themselves with information about the candidates for office. Early this year Slabbed published the meeting notes from the December 2016 meeting between City officials and the United States Department of Justice. That document contains a wealth of information that should be important to every voter in terms of the three elected officials, two of whom are now running for Mayor that were in attendance with the other seeking reelection to the City Council. That meeting started with the DoJ making a repayment demand of about $300,000 in misspent funds and ended with the DoJ representative making a promise to take the proposal to let the resource starved Bay PD spend the money immediately on very real needs such as mold remediation inside the station house.

From a political standpoint it would have been easy for the two councilmen in attendance to let the Mayor suffer the consequences for comingling and misspending the grant beginning in 2011 by keeping quiet and having the DoJ demand $321,000 from the City while the Mayor prattled on about someone forging his electronic signature on the annual financial affidavit. They didn’t and ultimately the City now will be able to use these funds for their intended purpose – bolstering public safety. And as I wrote in a comment after that news broke that act also got the Mayor off the hook for repaying the misspent funds. There was simply no loss to the City.

Financially abused citizens nonetheless still wanted the Mayor’s bond called despite the good advise they were given by City Attorney Trent Favre that the City had no viable claim but the City Council persisted in hiring outside council. And at the last meeting the Council found out they would be on their own in such an endeavor as the State Auditor has told the City the exact same thing their City Attorney advised them of months ago: The City has no claim. Now the Mayor has vetoed their resolution about calling the bond.

Anger causes people to make thoughtless decisions thus it naturally follows that important decisions should never be made in anger. The very real public anger caused City Councilmen to question the motivations behind the very good advice they were getting from City Attorney Favre. Such was as crass an act as the Mayor questioning the motivations behind the City Audit firm exposing the full extent of the financial mismanagement in 2015. What we haven’t yet seen is a positive message for the citizens such as a plan to clean up the mess and move the City forward. What we have all seen is continued recriminations that have taken on an Alice in Wonderland type quality summed up by commenter Confused who wrote, “Les is proud that he was only accused of cheating and not stealing” certainly referring to social media posts such as the one put out by the Hancock County NAACP in support of the Mayor which also attacked the local good government group.

Such missives would hardly be noteworthy outside the context of the upcoming election. Four months ago the same organization was making salacious accusations about minors conducting modern day lynchings in the Stone County High School football team while branding an entire town as a bunch of hick racists. Those accusations unraveled like a cheap sweater but the damage was done and the Football team’s season fizzled. In Hancock County comingling and misspending grant money dedicated to public safety causing the boys in blue to go without is OK in the eyes of the same organization. But such jibberish is made possible in the context of a City Council stepping out against the sound advise of its own Attorney.

Worse there is now a smouldering $300,000 hole in the City’s budget with almost half the fiscal year elapsed. The payback of the funds in the form of their immediate expenditure and resulting impact on a budget that had no wiggle room is the important nugget that gets lost in the inane bickering. Tonight the council will hold a workshop that will chart the way forward. Absorbing the DoJ repayment will not be painless.

Sixty days out from the election there are important questions about the direction of the City that those running for City office need to address including budget and funding priorities. Throwing around platitudes about being the person to work together with others sound greats but in a City with the budgetary restraints faced by the Bay accompanied by groups of citizens and special interests that compete for scare resources while large parts of the City do not get much in the way of City services means the problems facing the Bay are in no way susceptible to resolution by cheap talking points alone.  Such important stuff tends to get lost in the tit for tat back and forth we are seeing now. Its past time the City moved on to the real challenges it still faces now that the DoJ mess has been addressed and solved.

18 thoughts on “Time to move on from the DoJ Disaster”

  1. You know, it’s getting a little boring at this stage of the game. Once again the same scenario is played out— the resolution to the misappropriation of funds in the Bay has to be born on the shoulders of the taxpayers. It wasn’t enough, I guess, that Mayor Fillingame and Clerk Kolf, ran out to The First Bank and took out a loan in the taxpayers names in 2013 to cover utility payments that the citizens had already sent to city hall?! Then the bond restructure that resulted in the $13 surcharge to everyone’s utility bills in 2014, that is, everyone that pays because there are tens of thousands that have walked out the door in the past 8 years, some city employees. WLOX reported at their 10:00pm broadcast that the Council Workshop on the budget amendments tonight ended in the city having a $300,000 shortfall to their general operating budget due to the good people having to pay the DOJ out of the General Fund in order to make repairs to the Police Department. The folks are being strapped and loaded up for sure. The shortfall grew $66,000 just since last Tues.
    Hell, if the Council would just respond to the repeated findings in their independent audit of the last four years regarding the failure to make collections in the utility and court departments (all administrative depts.) they could pick up some cash for their constituents. I am told there is a little tool you can use in the utility department that gets delinquent users ( or should I say abusers) attention really quick.
    And where was the Mayor during this financial workshop? He was MIA at the school board meeting scraping egg off of his face for failing to re-appoint Maurice Singleton to the Board in February as per state law. He and the School Board attorney and city attorney are trying to say Maurice has 180 days he can serve if they fail to reappoint him. That applies to interim appointments. Maurice was appointed to a full 5 year term in March of 2012. But they love to reinvent the law. It’s their favorite parlor game.
    I wasn’t in the mood tonight. I had my opinions from the lead election attorney with the Secretary of State’s office and an AG opinion she got late this afternoon. Actually, I did Maurice a favor. What if he had sat there and voted, approved a docket of hundreds of thousands of dollars, etc. Someone could have really gone after him then. He did not fight it, he stepped down as he should have.
    There is enough tom foolery going on at the school district central office right now that needs fixing and bad. One thing at a time!!

  2. WOW,
    You seem to be saying something very different from what I did last night at the School Board meeting. I was not recommending that Maurice Singleton be “removed” from the School Board. That had already happened statutorily when his term expired the first Saturday in March, and the Mayor neglected to re-nominate him to the City Council at their first meeting in February as required by Miss. Code 37-7-203. I spoke to the School Board attorney before the meeting started, and he concluded that it would be to Maurice’s best interest to sit out last night’s meeting until he is legally re-appointed, just like 4 years ago when Mayor Fillingame neglected to re-appoint Clevand Williams as required at the first Council meeting in Feb. I had to ask then School Board President, Sherry Ponder, to ask him not to participate until the Mayor got around to re-nominating him to the City Council for approval.
    That is all I was informing them of. The Secretary of State and Attorney General both concurred with opinions yesterday afternoon. Maurice would have been in serious peril to have sat there and voted on any issue and to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars “after” his term expired.
    Remember, WOW, when our representatives in Waveland serve out their elected term, we have to hold an election, and the same applies in the Bay, when their appointed trustees terms expire, they have to be officially re-appointed–state law.
    If you have clear, legal knowledge of some reason that Trustee Casey Favre should be “removed” from the School Board, you should follow through with it, not just cast dispersion on his reputation.
    There are laws that govern how all of our public entities have to operate. As a taxpayer, I don’t think it is asking too much of them to follow the law while they represent us.

      1. WOW,
        Obviously, you are a supporter and riding the gravy train of our corrupt and inept school board. ALL of them came in with high hopes and promises to turn a “rogue board” into a board that was going to make all of these positive changes for the students, faculty, and community of the BWSD. What a joke and embarrassment most of them have become! Mike Bell obviously has a hidden agenda and is known as the baseball drunk. Mark Kidd is Mike’s puppet and also joke. He speaks out of both sides of his mouth. Lies, Lies, Lies. Mr Singleton, is in there for political gains, promoting racial agenda, and nepotism at its finest. Joan is another puppet that follows whatever Maurice tells her to do. Casey Favre, in my opinion and several others, is the ONLY board member that has done what is in the best interest of the students, faculty, and community. In all actuality, I believe that he is smarter than the school board attorney and every member on the board. This has been proven time and time again at every school board meeting in the past several months. How sad is that????? In light of last month’s embarrassing school board meeting, where our “School Board” displayed childish, incompetent behavior, not ONE member of this community has taken a stand to support the ONLY member of our board that had enough brains to ‘No Vote’ the foolishness of appointing incompetent members to run the district. I have to ask myself, “Are people scared to stand up in this community? What is wrong with the faculty, parents, and community members? Do people in this community really believe that our school board is doing a great job? Do we believe that our Mayor is involved, and appoints those who have the best interest of our community? Did we really elect not one, but 2 ignoramus incompetents to represent Waveland?” What a huge disappointment they have all been. One could only hope that the Mayor is smart enough to appoint someone other than Mr. Singleton, who has proven that he has a hidden agenda. Lana, thank you for being the voice of reason that many people do not want to listen to. Thank you for saying all of the things that everyone else in the community obviously fears to say for fear of being alienated, fired, or reprimanded. Thank you for standing up for what is RIGHT and calling out this “ROGUE BOARD” for their consistent ignorance and incompetent behavior. EVERYONE hopes that you will file a formal ethics complaint so that the matter can be handled once and for all.
        WOW, I will end on this note…Karma is swift and just. May your ignorance be thrown in your face, for you haven’t a clue the KARMA that will be distributed to each of these members once it is all said and done. And for the record, I guarantee if you were to allow the people to vote on these school board members, ALL of them would be replaced, with the exception of Mr. Favre.

        1. To give an example of just how pathetic our local School District has become, last Monday when I arrived at the Central Office on Second on St. in the Bay for the School Board meeting, as I went to push the door open to enter the building, Charlene Mallini, a school secretary, met me at the door, and told me that I could not enter the Board room until the meeting had started. She said that she had been told to greet everyone at the door with this new rule. This is a first. In all the years I have attended those meetings, no one has ever been assigned to give this grim message to the public. I asked her if they were in Executive Session, and she said no they just don’t want anyone in the room until the meeting starts. Really?!
          Well, there is also another rule they apprised us of some time back that if we wanted to address the Board, we had to sign a sheet, and to make sure we signed it at least 10 minutes before the meeting started so the Board President could look over it before we spoke. So, how will the public be able to sign this sheet in time to speak in the future if they can’t even enter the room until the meeting starts??????????
          Not stepping out of character, I looked at her and said,” you know what, I am going in there, and if anyone wants to throw me out, they can do it at their own peril.”
          I walked in where Mr. Bell, Mr. Singleton, Mr. Artigues, Ms. Landry, her brother, and couple of secretaries were just chatting, I sat down, no one said a word to me.
          At every other public meeting in this area, people traditionally arrive early. I was a whole 12 minutes early, Heaven forbid. The public takes a seat, visit with those they know and with the public officials as they arrive. It really is okay in America to allow the public who is paying for everything to be in their public buildings.
          There has never been a school board prior to this that imposed such a rule. Wish I had asked Charlene “who” assigned her that dismal duty, but it didn’t matter to me because I wasn’t paying heed to it anyway.

  3. I will not further question those who are running for office that may have soiled clothes. I will question the State Auditor who is a part of the Culture of Corruption himself.

    1. Examiner,
      Now there you go. You have zeroed in on the “real’ problem. But, to play the devil’s advocate for just a moment, I understand that the way the letter to the auditor accepting their offer to assist the city council in revoking the bonds of the Mayor and clerks, was, shall we say, a tad incomplete regarding information that was directed to be sent to them. There is more to this than has come out at this time. We’ll see how City Council handles it.

    2. Well a couple of things Examiner and Ms. Lana. And perhaps you can shed some light on this as it is in your neck of the woods. It would be enlightening to compare were the school board members are working now and where they previously worker. The connections to Les the Mess and his thug friends and family members will soon fit together like a jig saw puzzle. Les has been giving pat back and back rubs that go back decades. I am astounded that they keep getting elected. Hold that bible high and preach the gospel of transparency and “house cleaning” and in you go and in you stay. Stacy the Rat Pickering will do nothing because he is a do nothing politician that has held that bible high to his inbred constituency and preached that gospel on high of “transparency” “house cleaning” “drain that swamp” and in the same breath of redemption bought his daughter a fancy car out of his campaign funds, bought himself a new garage door from his campaign funds, bought him and his family a fancy travel trailer for vacation to get away from his constituents. Yes this is the man responsible from bring Les the Mess to justice. This is the man that is responsible for bringing those members of the Les team that have coconspired to steal rob and cover up fraud in the Bay. No, hold no hope for that day of redemption. Look what Pickering the Rat did at DMR. Set a bunch of low level employees to jail for stealing pencils and paper all the while Walker stole millions had a secret account that purchased furniture and Snappper Yeti for Pickering and other elected officials. Bought his sons property. Tina Schumate used taxpayers money to buy her parents property and had a secret account that Pickering the Rat somehow could not find. We never heard all the personal items she bought but there are the rumors. And a quick update date of Crack Head Libby Denyer. Off to jail she goes for selling drugs for years in Jackson County. Apparently her thug Ocean Springs Alderman father could not threaten and intimidate her way out of this one. One can guess that Rat Pickering had nothing to do with this prosecution. Or Crack Head Libby would still be selling drugs and some secretary somewhere would be off to jail for stealing office supplies.

  4. Fact:
    wow , I guess you think Favre should be let go because he dated a teacher.
    Ruling already in & guess what ?
    Nothing!!!!!
    Surely not because he has morals !!!
    And not because he was right when questioning the hiring of the superintendent or the hiring of the assistant superintendent who I believe may be the god child of the board president.
    How convenient to create a new position for her!!!
    Fact :
    wow , you sound like one of Lucifer’s followers who believe it’s ok to break the laws!!!
    Fact :
    Doug , I believe you are right that the Do Right councilman saved the DOJ funds for the city & let the mayor off the hook!!
    If they find the $300,000 to balance the budget.
    Time will tell.

  5. I hope the taxpayers won’t have to bear the burden of paying the 300K back and Les gets a free ride. Someone should pay and it’s not us..
    Les needs to quit vetoing the Councils votes and let the cards fall where they should. If he has nothing to hide, then he will be fine. Although, we all know differently, and that is why he takes the position with the votes.
    How many more days until election ???

    1. Taxpayer,
      Unfortunately, YOU will bear the burden for the Mayor’s actions is what is going to happen. That is what has happened for the last 8 years as evidenced in the unnecessary loan of $500,000 to The First Bank in 2013. YOU paid off that unnecessary loan. Why was it unnecessary? BECAUSE you had already handed the Mayor and his utility staff your money and “something else” was done with it. There was no need for a loan to pay those two agencies, the utility users had already sent the money to City Hall to cover those bills. But, who covered for him——-YOU!!! And the good old taxpayer has now relinquished another $300,000 out of their General Operating Fund to cover for the Mayor and his clerks violating the terms of a Federal Grant and spending the money “impermissibly” which by the way, in any legal dictionary you access, is defined as “illegal” or not “permitted.”
      Examiner has correctly defined the State Auditor’s staff as part of the culture of corruption, and your locals are playing along, unfortunately for you. We sympathize in Waveland. Been there and done that.

      1. And we are paying it again with the $13.00 assessment each month that I heard a while back was not getting put into the proper account to pay off the loan for the loan for the loan. It is kind of like the never ending “past bowl” you can order at Olive Garden.
        VOTE LES OUT !!!! And end this debacle.

    1. Fact :
      Favre telling lies!! Wow
      You really are a Lucifer follower.
      What a idiot.
      Les doesn’t lie. Wow
      Only when his mouth opens.
      Caseys hidden agenda ????
      & les’s agenda , lie to get re elected.
      Only job he’s held because of the votes from favors.l & lies.
      He’s been run off or screwed his partners in business.
      Take either Favre over any of them numb nuts on either board.
      Y’all just can’t handle the truth.
      To dumb to realize your his puppet.
      Facts are facts.

  6. Unfortunately School Board members become too political and ego steps in. They forget they have been appointed to serve the students and citizens of the city they represent. That goes out the window and a whole new person evolves inside. They always lose their focus on the children and budget. They are afraid to ask questions with fear they won’t get re-appointed. Who Cares, they are supposed to ask questions and do the right thing…And the attorney is NO help.

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