To The Residents of Bay St. Louis:
In the very near future you are going to have to decide which direction you want your city to go in. You have the choice of continuing with the policies and errors of the “proven leadership” of Mayor Fillingame or choosing new leadership that will hopefully lead your city back into prosperity with lower taxes, better services and prompt attention when you have need of those services.
Mayor Fillingame insists his administration has been one of leadership and responsibility, but that bears closer inspection. In the past five years he’s “lost” tremendous amounts of money the city is now responsible for replacing, been involved in numerous law suits that you, the tax payer are responsible for through your taxes, failed to pay the city’s debts on time and soiled the city’s reputation.
It was his choice to remove Chief Tom Burleson from his position as the city’s police chief and replace him with Michael De Nardo, a person who was known to the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana to be someone not of good character and failed to have an in depth background investigation conducted before elevating him to that position. In fact De Nardo was fired from that agency for numerous and repeated violations of the Sheriff’s policies and other misconduct. So here we are in 2017 after the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office has conducted an investigation into the financial business of the city which again does not speak well of Mr. Fillingame or Mr. De Nardo.
That investigation revealed that De Nardo had been involved in the theft of several thousands of dollars through payroll fraud by submitting false payroll records on behalf of Patricia De Nardo, his wife, knowing she had not worked the number of hours claimed nor, in fact, had she even been in the State of Mississippi during many of those times. Further investigation revealed that De Nardo was also involved in the theft of police equipment and guns that had been confiscated and secured in the city’s evidence vault.
Mr. Fillingame is responsible in that he either condoned or failed to stop it and simply signed off on those financial records and that no accurate inventory was being kept of either city equipment or evidence maintained by the police department. Now he may say he didn’t know or realize what was being done, but he should have since he’s required to approve every expenditure including the payroll. It is his responsibility to double check anything he’s signing off on.
Mr. Fillingame has also recently stated that “someone” forged his electronic signature on documents that he never saw. Well sir, who has access and authority to use that signature? Surely that would be someone you gave permission to. A person walking into city hall can’t just gain access and forge your signature, so it has to be someone you know. Forgery is a felony in this state. Why hasn’t an investigation been conducted and the responsible party arrested?
Additionally Mr. Fillingame has been responsible for several lawsuits being filed against the city including one in which one a long term, trusted police officer filed after he was unjustly accused of criminal acts without any evidence of any wrongdoing other than De Nardo’s accusations which later proved to be false. How is it that a Federal Judge could uncover the truth in just a few days when the city failed to do so over almost a five year period? Or is it because the truth didn’t fit in with what De Nardo and Fillingame wanted it to be?
In April 2012 Detective Sergeant Joe Kepfer was accused by De Nardo of lying to an assistant district attorney and to Judge George Lipscomb in order to obtain arrest warrants for two people who were suspected of being involved in the Maurice Colley murder. According to De Nardo’s accusations Kepfer had intentionally lied to both the judge and assistant district attorney by stating that he had positively identified two people from raw bank video which caused De Nardo to make a premature press release identifying these two people before they had been apprehended or questioned.
Those of you who had any kind of interactions with Detective Kepfer previously knew him to be a highly decorated, well thought of and above all, honest individual in his dealings with both victims and criminal suspects. The accusations made against him at that time are, in fact, felonies in this state. It is a felony to lie to a Judge, any Judge, in this state while under oath. When a police officer asks that a warrant be issued, he presents written reasons why he’s requesting that warrant. He takes an oath before that Judge that all of the reasons and facts contained in his written affidavit are true, accurate and complete to the best of his knowledge and belief and he signs that document in front of the Judge and the Judge then issues the warrant. Lying to a Judge either in writing or verbally is called perjury and is a crime punishable by imprisonment and fines.
If he had lied to Judge Lipscomb, why weren’t criminal charges filed against him? That answer is simple enough. De Nardo knew Kepfer had not lied and he wasn’t going to risk filing criminal charges and having that come out in a trial. His accusations against Detective Kepfer were meant to deflect from his own incompetence when he told the press that police had arrested the people involved in this awful crime when, in fact, the detectives involved in the investigation didn’t know if they were or weren’t actually involved. According to accounts provided by the detectives and others involved in the investigation, the information they had at the time indicated that it was more likely than not the people named as suspects were involved in this terrible crime that cost one of our respected citizens his life.
The truth, as it came out later in Federal District Court in March of 2016 was that neither Kepfer nor any of the other detectives involved in the investigation had made any such statements to either the Judge or Assistant District Attorney and that they were following a logical trail of evidence that seemed to lead to those people. Because their whereabouts weren’t known warrants were needed in order to have them detained if they were found in another jurisdiction.
Yes, they were detained for a few days until they could be interviewed by the detectives, but in the end those same detectives cleared those people of involvement, not De Nardo. When Detectives returned from interviewing these people, who had been detained by another agency in Louisiana, and told De Nardo they weren’t the right people, he “flipped out” and demanded those detectives go back out, arrest the people they had cleared and “bring them back to the Bay St. Louis Police Station and force them to confess” to a crime they had nothing to do with. What he said that day is not in dispute since the meeting was recorded.
The detectives refused to obey illegal orders and a few hours later De Nardo relieved both Kepfer and Detective John Mitchell of duty and suspended them. The result was a protracted civil case that dragged on for more than four years and in which the only beneficiary was the city attorney involved and in the end the allegations were proven to be false. This is a horrible black eye for the city and one in which the mayor failed to act to avoid entire thing.
The accused officers requested Mayor Fillingame to ask an outside agency such as the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations to conduct a proper, impartial investigation that included polygraph examinations of all parties involved. Now you would think that the Mayor would be interested in stopping what would turn out to be a lengthy process that cost the taxpayers and good citizens several thousand dollars in legal and attorney’s fees by requesting that outside agency to conduct a proper investigation, but apparently he wasn’t. It seems all he was really interested in was protecting his police chief and his own reputation. When asked directly about the truth of things Mr Fillingame said it’s not about the truth, I am going to back my chief De Nardo had no interest in such an investigation because he couldn’t control the outcome and he already knew the truth. He certainly didn’t want that to happen because that investigation would have revealed his own improper behavior during this case and likely led to discovery of other illegal activities he was involved in.
Thankfully the real suspect was revealed, but that was not due to police vigilance or an efficient investigation conducted by the new detectives assigned to that case, but rather because the victim’s nephew noticed something among the victim’s possessions that should not have been there and turned that evidence over to police. A laboratory analysis of this new evidence gave police the name of the real person involved.
But during the time that all these things were going on, De Nardo continued to soil Detective Kepfer’s good name and reputation. De Nardo presented false information to the Board of Law Enforcement Officers’ Standards and Training (BLOEST) which resulted in Detective Kepfer’s Professional Certificate being suspended. That made Detective Kepfer ineligible for employment as a law enforcement officer not only in this state, but throughout the United States. De Nardo also failed or refused to follow the procedure of notifying Detective Kepfer of this action and advising Kepfer that he was entitled to a hearing before the board prior to any action being taken against Kepfer. Without a request for a hearing, the board presumed that Kepfer was guilty as accused and did not wish a hearing to defend himself.
Just a few weeks prior to this incident however, De Nardo and Mayor Fillingame were involved in “revoking” over 400 hours of personal leave and vacation time from Detective Kepfer and other officers employed at Bay P.D. That is not time the city “gives” to anyone, but is in fact paid, earned time that is assigned according to the number of hours someone works. You the taxpayers will have to pay for these actions which are against not only state law but federal law.
During the time Detective Kepfer was unemployed and essentially barred from employment because of De Nardo’s actions, his wife’s health began to decline and she had three strokes within a few months because she was unable to see the doctors she needed to or to obtain the medications she needed. On May 17, 2016, Joy Kepfer died at Memorial Hospital of Gulfport after undergoing an emergency bypass surgery. If she hadn’t been denied the care she needed before then, she may still have been alive today.
Joy Kepfer had many friends and always believed Mayor Fillingame was going to see the truth and right the wrong that had been done to not just Joe Kepfer, but to her as well. She was truly a good person and went out of her way to help others when she could. Mr. Fillingame didn’t even bother to show up at her funeral, but had the nerve to tell Detective Kepfer how “sorry” he was several months later.
Before I go any further, I don’t want anyone to think this is a vindictive letter or favoring a particular individual. The truth is that Joe Kepfer is one of several victims of Mayor Filllngame’s policies and personal politics.
Eddie Bourgeois is a highly educated, decorated firefighter who served as the city’s Fire Marshall until he ran afoul of the mayor’s hand picked fire chief and was accused of using his authority to obtain private vehicle registration information about an individual he had a “problem” with by asking a patrolman to obtain owner information. The truth of that matter is the patrolman noticed a vehicle following Bourgeois around town and obtained the registration information and notified Bourgeois he was being followed by that vehicle.
Well, Mayor Fillingame couldn’t have that information getting out to the public so De Nardo worked his “magic” and found an excuse to terminate that officer as well. Eddie has yet to see justice in his case, but it is coming. Another federal lawsuit is in the works in that case as well. That’s money you folks will be paying in the form of taxes and possible increases in fees.
In addition another firefighter, Billy Shap, ran afoul of the same fire chief and her ugly manners and disposition when he objected to her displays of foul items in the living quarters of the fire department. He was subsequently fired and Mayor Fillingame went right along with the termination. Guess what, folks? Yes, another federal law suit that’s going to cost you more money.
Detective Kepfer achieved a level of justice in Federal Court thanks to a Judge who wanted to have the whole truth and had the authority to get it, but that truth can never replace his beloved wife or the many opportunities they missed out on. Folks, you simply have a vindictive politician in office who is concerned with no one other than himself and a few powerful friends. If a lie will serve him better than the truth, he’s going to lie to you.
Mr. Fillingame will tell you that this was not his decision, but in fact he is the final authority in such matters. He will also tell you that the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice. What he won’t tell you that every lawsuit that is settled in Federal Court is dismissed with prejudice to avoid it being filed again, nor will he tell you that the presiding judge maintains authority in the event he needs to enforce the order through the use of U.S. Marshals.
Mr. Fillingame won’t tell you he revised the employee manual to thwart common rights given to any employee. The handbook called for an employee to have a hearing before the mayor before any disciplinary action is taken. That’s been changed; now the employee gets a hearing before his department head, the person who’s accusing him of wrong doing.
So imagine if our justice system was like that and instead of a judge and jury, the judge was the person accusing you of committing a crime. That doesn’t sound quite fair, does it?
Over a year ago Mayor Fillingame was instructed by that Federal Judge to have Detective Kepfer’s certification reinstated and to send him to the training academy so he can go back to work in his chosen career field. Until just a few weeks ago, he failed to follow through on that order until Detective Kepfer’s attorneys told him they were going to bring a complaint to the Court against him. He tried to say that Detective Kepfer was to blame for the delay because he hadn’t followed up until recently when in fact, Kepfer had mentioned it several times and was told “there’s plenty of time to do that”. That money still has not been paid in full. The citizens of Bay Saint Louis will be responsible. Mr Fillingame says oh it wasn’t me, it was all De Nardo. Well folks you did not elect Mike De Nardo to look after your interests. You elected Leslie Fillingame. He has brought you corruption, lawsuits, lies.
Michael De Nardo committed suicide rather than face justice fo/r his misdeeds. The combined investigations of the FBI, ATF and Hancock County Sheriff’s Department have revealed that he was actively involved in several criminal enterprises that Mayor Fillingame claims to know nothing about. Maybe so, but if he wasn’t aware of them, he should have been. He is, after all, ultimately responsible for his employee’s actions.
Look at what else has happened recently. You folks have been told that you may lose federal flood insurance guarantees because Mayor Fillingame and his administration have failed to put policies into place to meet the guidelines FEMA told them they needed. Instead they just “kicked the can” down the road until they ran out of road. Can you afford that?
Now it’s your turn to hold him responsible for what he’s done and for what he’s allowed to happen while he was in charge. When you cast that ballot, ask yourself if you can really afford to have Leslie Fillingame in office with his brand of “proven leadership” for another four years, or if you want change that will truly benefit the beautiful City of Bay St. Louis and it’s many honest, wonderful residents.
Recently when I was speaking to one of our retired former city leaders, he made the statement that “I had to be fair to all my employees and citizens because if I had been unfair to one, it wasn’t fair to any of them.”
This is not posturing for the election. This is all public record, documents and recordings for the citizens to listen. Be informed. Fillingames slogan is proven leadership. The facts in evidence prove something but it certainly is not leadership.