A County Apart: Hancock Sups talk dissolving Hancock Solid Waste, gets push back from all the likely political interests

There’s too many pigs for the teats ~ Abraham Lincoln (As quoted by Shelby Foote in Ken Burns The Civil War)

Last month Slabbed took a look at the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority Budget as it was topical in political circles locally and sure enough on July 17th the County Board of Supervisors opened discussion about the future of the authority which is, with the possibility of one exception, unique in the State of Mississippi. Neighboring Harrison County for instance uses interlocal agreements for trash collection as administered by the Utility Authority, another local political subdivision that exists in most every county in the state including Hancock County. Put in simpler terms Hancock County is an outlier in having a separate layer of government to administer the trash collection contracts. That layer of government costs extra money to maintain and that is why the Board of Sups is looking at eliminating the Authority.

Before I get to Dwayne Bremer’s account of that portion of the July 2017 Supervisor meeting the following has to be set up. A frequent criticism I get at Slabbed from those readers that are not from this immediate area is that Slabbed writes “too much to the inside” and what that means is there are often important contextual details that are assumed in the narrative rather than being disclosed in the narrative. A reader in Jackson needs that context to truly understand what is happening and there is a whole line of books that goes by the title “insert name” for Dummies. So along those lines this post is Hancock County Solid Waste Authority for Dummies so everyone will understand, not just the locals.

Similarly the local paper which is written for a local audience often writes to the inside for the same reason.  For instance why disclose that local tax collector Jimmy Ladner is the Solid Waste Board’s Attorney’s Father when virtually everyone locally knows that fact?  Ladner himself prefaced his remarks on that relationship according to Lana Noonan and several other meeting attendees that spoke with Slabbed real time during the meeting.  But it is that bit of context that gets us to Dwayne’s story:

Board of Supervisors President Blaine LaFontaine said dissolving the authority would eliminate the administration, engineering, and legal fees, thus saving at least $125,000 a year.

He proposed that the county absorb the administration functions and use inter-local agreements with the cities using an invoice system for the collection costs.

He said he does not believe it would create much additional work for county employees.

“We are already doing a lot of that stuff now,” he said.

Hancock County Tax Assessor/Collector Jimmie Ladner said Monday that he believes more research needs to be done on the effects of dissolving the authority.

Ladner said he was concerned that the county may not be able to get the same contract prices if dissolves the authority.

“We are talking about a quarter mil in savings which is only $2.50 for every $100,000 of property value,” Ladner said. “If we lose the power to collectively bargain, the contracts for collection may be higher, causing monthly bills to go up.”

I don’t blame Jimmy Ladner for going to bat for his daughter but I also wouldn’t let that to stand in the way of the County saving a significant amount of money. But there were others that also spoke up about keeping this duplicate level of government and it is there that we can examine the motivations of the political players that favor keeping the extra burden on the Hancock County taxpayers but before we get to that I’ll posit that Hancock County Solid Waste Authority has not been very well run financially and the reason I say that is the authority is very late in getting its required annual audits out. First let’s start with the FY 2015 Hancock County audit dated September 26, 2016, specifically Footnote 14 on PDF Page 36:

Hancock County is a participant with the Cities of Bay St. Louis and Waveland in a joint venture, authorized by Section 17-17-307, Miss. Code Ann. (1972), to operate the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority. The joint venture was created to collect and dispose of solid waste for the members of the authority. The Hancock County Board of Supervisors appoints two of the six members of the board of directors. The county’s appropriation paid to the joint ventures was $804,000 in fiscal year 2015. Complete financial statements for the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority can be obtained from Compton Engineering, P.A., 3036 Longfellow Drive, Bay St. Louis, MS 39520.

The problem is the complete financial statements for the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority (which I define as audited financial statements for the 2015 Fiscal year) did not exist until a bit less than 2 months ago when the audit was issued very late on June 6, 2017. The 2016 fiscal year has not been filed with Office of the State Auditor.

The authority must account for a few contracts and does not appear to have any employees so the accounting is not rocket science here but for whatever reason they are running behind and that is never a good sign of sound behind the scenes financial management and that brings me to the 2017 budget Slabbed published last month. It seems to me that unless the auditors are working for nothing maybe one year worth of audit fees are budgeted but certainly not two.  For those keeping score the 2015 audit noted how both legal and engineering went significantly over budget so I would not hang my hat on the $125,000 savings figure because it could well be more. Further my professional opinion is folding Solid Waste into an inter-local agreement run by the County would not increase the County audit fee by a penny as it would just be more transactions and contracts added to the population of transactions and contracts that would be sampled or analytically reviewed and this gets me to Waveland Mayor Mike Smith’s defense of the Solid Waste Authority at the Supervisors meeting. Here is the quote from Dwayne’s story:

Waveland Mayor Mike Smith said Tuesday that he thinks the solid waste authority is good for the county and cities.

“I’m for anything that will reduce costs while maintaining the same services, however, I think we get some very competitive prices by speaking as a whole,” Smith said. “I’m not saying that is going to go away, but I think it at least needs to be considered.”

One thing that you’ll rarely find politicians speaking about would be what I’d call perks of the office. For instance I am friends with someone that was closely related to someone elected to high political office. He once described for me his experience eating out one night with his relative after he won an election and the short version is they all ate and drank for free that night because other customers in the restaurant currying favor with the newly elected official kept buying them food and drinks.

Folks there is big money in trash so it makes sense the players would curry favor with Solid Waste Board members. Slabbed constantly gets tips and good information and many times those tips end up filed away for later use and such is the case today because speaking of currying favor, over a year ago I was sent pictures of the following event put on by Team Waste that Slabbed’s source, an elected official not authorized to speak on behalf of the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority, indicated was sent to every member of the Hancock Solid Waste Authority Board:

Source: Hancock County Elected Official not authorized to speak on behalf of the Hancock County Utility Authority
Source: Hancock County Elected Official not authorized to speak on behalf of the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority
Source: Hancock County Elected Official not authorized to speak on behalf of the Hancock County Utility Authority
Source: Hancock County Elected Official not authorized to speak on behalf of the Hancock County Solid Waste Authority

Folks I can’t tell you who attended the party at the Hard Rock and got hand rolled cigars but it is this exact kind of thing that would make the recipient more math challenged when it came to justifying the existence of an extra layer of government whose elimination would save in excess of $125,000/year.

If I were on the Board of Supervisors, I’d let the numbers rather than the folks benefiting from the duplication of effort lead me to the answer on whether or not to dissolve the Solid Waste Authority.

Finally I’ll close by saying there are a lot of eyes on the Solid Waste Authority right now.  I’d personally recommend following the money to the landfill. I suspect we’ll be having more on this topic.

44 thoughts on “A County Apart: Hancock Sups talk dissolving Hancock Solid Waste, gets push back from all the likely political interests”

  1. One of the major reasons this added, unnecessary layer of
    “Government” has to go is the disinterest of some of the very Commissioners themselves as to its operation.
    To be charitable, I won’t use names, but when they actually admit they are too busy to read their minutes, one actually asked me to get him a copy of the budget he approved it????!!!!!
    Another gave no response to my email inquiring as to
    where the 2016 audit is??!!
    As for the Tax Collector’s daughter being the attorney, I could not care less WHO they are. This is not about going after individuals. It’s about saving money, a rare commodity of thought in our poor county.
    I thought their auditor’s notation in 2015 that they were ” substantially” over Budget in legal fees was interesting.
    Remember, a Budget is only projected spending………

    1. I totally agree, in principle, with the idea that the daughter of whomever doesn’t matter.
      The appearance of impropriety means alot though. We have plenty to choose from. ..

      1. Yes, kinship IS a big deal……has anyone heard of a meritocracy around here? In corporations, there are very strict regs on husband and wife or kids etc….even dating can be problematic.

        And trash is big money. I grew up in the Northeast and let me tell ya, it was more “mobbed up” than trucking or construction trade. It is as if “authorities” or “Commissions” or “Boards” are manufactured at will….I have never seen so many entities running such small towns and counties.

        And our new Mayor is getting far too much press, far too early on…..we all understand that the new folks elected walked into a town hall that looks like it’s been thru a home invasion, but steep learning curve or not, all our elected officials need to stop the ego explosion, the lack of knowledge, the blatant disregard for the chain of command. If this place even HAS a written formalized code of ethics and regulations enforcing them, they all need to memorize and remind themselves why we voted for them.

  2. Ms. Noonan please look up Attorney, Enforcement contract & mileage and Compton employee cost total for percentage spent against overall. Diamondhead resident assured me that Tax Collector also gets a percentage and or can take a percentage! Is this accurate? Isn’t “Mayors” paid too? How much per year? Wow 😳

  3. Jimmy Ladners daughter being the attorney for the HCCSW wouldn’t raise eyebrows so much if she had bid a contract. She was instead selected and most probably because her aunt was elected as Circuit Clerk and her dad as Tax Assessor.

    The authority also has Tommy Kidd on the payroll and his sisters son is the Auditor.

    Paid Elected Officials such as mayors, aldermen and Councilmen serve to represent their respective communities but are also compensated $80 a meeting to attend. If the meeting is recessed they get another $80. Are they representing us or themselves?
    The Engineering Firm attends the meeting and bills accordingly and if recessed additional billing. Their field Representative is never seen at lunch without an elected official on his tab. Some even say when they can’t get someone to pay their lunch they stop by at 11:00 and it happens.

    The attorney is well connected and bills accordingly as mentioned prior as well if recessed additional pay.

    The Sun Herald and Sea Coast Echo needs to do a story on nepotism in Hancock County! It doesn’t end here. The Chamber and the Library have their own inside connections which are going to be revealed once everyone digests the Solid Waste Nepotism debacles.

    1. Well, Pissed, thanks for the Hancock County version of Ancestry. com. Suffice to say:
      Blood is thicker than millage!!

    2. WOWZA!!!!!
      Even worse than I expected…..and I think that even thru a bid or contract, certain family relationships should not be allowed. A wife teaching middle school and husband in the Roads Dept is one thing, but when the officials or attorneys are in positions where they can influence, directly or otherwise policy that will benefit other family, that is a system that is absolutely untenable and disgraceful violation of our social contract. Thanks for the eye opener

  4. Conflict of interest and impropriety is not even a caution sign in Hancock County it is a green light. The more collusion and guilty people the safer they feel. Spread the wealth amongst themselves. Nearly impossible to stop unless you embarrass them.

  5. Team waste has moved on to a bigger project. They want to construct a mega dump on Hwy 90 to intercept all the Louisiana garbage that currently comes to other counties. They have the ex county supervisor Steve Steal-more buying up as many politicians as they need. It’s amazing how a little cash, a few hookers and some free hunting trips can buy any permits you need from dumb greedy politicians.

    1. Brandon,Funny you would say that about the Team Waste group. Over this way when Biloxi voted to give Team Waste the city garbage contract administered by the HCUA it caught my attention. I personally was happy with the current company but felt that the decision made by those in control was maybe based on the best interests of the citizens. Then I found out that the new agreement was for 50% less service and costs more. Gulfport obviously has city councilmen who are not corrupted and smart enough to see through the “computer chip in every can” scam being sold by this company. How did my city of Biloxi not follow the same thought process as Gulfport? Who does Team Waste have “workin’it” over this way? More ex-county supervisors? How many local politicians were bought, steaks ate,casino chips passed and hunting trips with hookers promised to? Who is on the Team Waste payroll that has enough influence at city hall to sell less for more? All of us will have to “chip in” to pay for the new 50% less for more money contract. A real hard shaking is needed to see who falls from that Team Waste money tree.This deal stinks more than the week old garbage that will be in my new high tech can outside the backdoor. I know for fact that we will all want our twice a week pickups back as soon as they are gone. We need to make some phone calls to our “dumb greedy politicians” over here in Harrison County to get some answers about this matter. They may all be gone on a summer Team Waste Carnival Cruise. This would not surprise anyone.

    2. Guess what? The PHC has waaaaaay bigger ideas on that profitable $$$$$.
      Coming soon(not if we can help it), barges from both domestic ports but also exotic and mysterious ports of call from Asia, South America and India. And those barges will be filled with Infectious Medical Waste. Asia and India detest this potentially disastrous waste so much that they will pay top dollar to send it halfway around the globe right thru the watershed, the coastal Marsh Preserve, right into Port Bienville. You remember Port Bienville, a stone’s throw from Pearlington, the Pearl River and the coastal waters. In a floodplain, thru fresh water critical to salinity and oysters and thru the Marsh Preserve. And the BEST news is it may bring maybe 20 jobs. Yessirree bob, the PHC and our Board of Sups are burning the midnight oil getting us great well-paying jobs (well a few of us) and a great eco-friendly company. Oh wait, sorry, strike that. Trash Docotswas started 5 yrs ago and run regular garbage in the Gulf. They have never worked IMW before, they are an out-of-state company with a website that is downright “ghosty”.

      I plan to coordinate and print out a small informational report for our governing entities, all of them. And am speaking at BSL City Council meeting Oct 3. This is possibly the most irresponsible plan I have ever seen and they are crowing about “economic development”…..there are some other really hinky things around this bt first, we need to get this plan SHUT down.

      Imagine a hurricane coming in, barge runs aground or sinks. An accident out in the Gulf, a fire, a breakdown of sterilizing equipment, human error, explosions……we have been through 2 worst case scenarios here, so we all know they happen.

  6. How about Filingame getting Duece McCalister to sign footballs during his election. He also works for the Waste Management Company! Les was president of the Solid Waste Authority!

  7. Look closely at the landfill. Garbage contracts and landfill contracts are often mutually dependent on one another.

  8. No doubt. We just need competition in Hancock County! We are getn screwed on the garaunteed monthly costs of the only dump site. This is another topic for fodder in handcuff county!

    1. Lana, I would guess that the contracts are negotiated by the governing body of the county. I am not familiar with Mississippi public bid laws, but in the state of Louisiana, a governing body — be it the mayor or a parish council — can enter into one-off negotiations for both garbage collection and disposal contracts (landfilling). This means that they do not have to publically bid these contracts as per state law governing the procurement of refuse collection and disposal contracts. Unless a Parish or a City has adopted local bid laws that are more restrictive, then the city or the parish can simply negotiate a contract without having to go out to bid. In the case of garbage, the maximum contract term is 10 years. Louisiana State law governing the procurement of disposal contracts allows for a one off negotiated contract of 20 years. Yes, that’s right, I said 20 years ($$$$$$$$). Check your state’s procurement laws to see if a similar procedure is allowed when it comes to garbage and disposal contracts. Then check the local procurement regulations to see if they are more restrictive and require some type of public bid process. There is gold in garbage.

  9. Everyone always said the DNA in Hancock County runs rampart. First of all why should our Tax Assessor even get involved and make a statement. He should take the high road, knowing his daughters involvement, and let the chips fall. Everyone knows they are related and if a vote is taken, they definitely have his best interest at stake for his family. To make a public statement knowing the implications is political suicide. Although maybe they feel they are untouchable. But Les thought the same thing and look what happened. Just like Tim Keller, who for 20 years, runs on the platform he is going to computerize hancock County. Wake up Hancock County !!! Maybe these offices need to be drained with the rest of the swamp. Harrison County is all on line and one can research deeds etc. and print from your computer, and not have to go down to the Clerks office. The girls in the office at Hancock County sit and eat and talk on the phone, at their desks. After the storm was the perfect opportunity to start over and get all on a computer. Such a waste of time and money. Harrison County charges so much per document on line, Hancock could do the same thing and recoup some money, but wait, does Tim Keller get the extra money as a salary? Like some other clerks. If so, lets not modernize the office but take the money home…

    1. From what I hear there is a pretty good legal hub being ran down at his office. One can get anything from a divorce to land deeds for cash money without ever involving anyone else but ole Tim. Wonder if any “mistakes” are ever made that benefit those who trust their legal papers to be prepared by those ladies who are running the office between phone calls and chit chat. Does Tim even live in Hancock County? He seems to be very involved in the business of Picayunne.

  10. Just went and researched Hancock County and there is NO Timothy Keller land owner. Does he have an alias? Is it in his wife’s name?
    Had one dealing with him that was not so above Board?? guess you have to donate to his campaign to get something done there, it appears from my perspective.

    1. OUTRAGED, hard to execute sarcasm and rhetoric in a comment, but, I am pretty sure he does NOT live in Hancock County, just didn’t want to put that out there as a fact, because he lives really close to the county line and it wouldn’t surprise me with the amount of land deeds being written and stamped in that office; if there wasn’t a line moved a little to ensure the question was unanswerable….hopefully not, but, considering the group of major supporters (chamber), you just never know anymore.

      1. I’m pretty sure Tim is Hancock County, by the Dolphin Kellar lake that county contractor, got a big, excessive no bid contract with the county and I guess the overage was used to build Tim’s lake free of charge. He thinks he is untouchable!
        He was also arrested by the MS wildlife and fishery a couple years ago for illegal dove hunting by his home and killing an endangered species. What ever became of this? Nothing, it disappeared!

    2. Timothy A Kellar is Vice President of Vista, LLC Nature of business
      Commercial Air, Rail and Water Transportation Equipment Rental and Leasing. His wife Jean is president.

      K & S Investments of MS, LLC
      Agent Steven Seymour
      Officers and Directors Timothy A Kellar

      Kellar, LLC president Timothy A Kellar

      Hancock County, MS Disaster Relief Fund, Non Profit Organization started post Katrina- Incorporator Timothy A Kellar, Jenell Tompkins, Ronnie Artigues and Sissy Gonzales

      1. And here I thought we were just talking about taking cash for shade tree legal work, lol. We’ve entered the twilight zone now and you know what happens when you get there! Seems like there is a LOT more to this story that has been neglected by Slabbed and everyone else.

        1. The paper trail has been out there for years. Just takes someone that’s interested to put in the time and make the effort to pull it all together. Glad people are starting to do so. Don’t think it’s anyone’s “job” to do it for us. Follow the money. The SOS business records are always a fine place to start. Would hop on over to the DEQ site too. Some details are now “archived” but worth a look to see who has been doing what over the years. Another good digging spot is the Haas lawsuit. Quite a lot happened before and after. Plenty of interested parties (public employees, etc.) happened to have “other business” in Jackson the same day MSSSC heard arguments. It’s all there if you look hard enough. Happy hunting!

  11. Look at the Chamber of Commerce and the Library and their ties. Chamber Director’s brother is the attorney, Library Director on the Chamber board. Tax Payers fund the Library, the Library funds the chamber. This is an on and on and on situation. Then they all need public resources to operate while in collusion. The Chamber is the Mother of all Non Profits. They all run their books through the chamber and the chamber gets a cut……

    I’m challenging the media ( main stream and other) to publish the public 990 Tax filings of the chamber to smoke out the rouse of public good.

    1. It’s DIY time with the 990s:

      https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/640203203

      Nonprofit Explorer
      Research Tax-Exempt Organizations
      HANCOCK COUNTY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
      100 SOUTH BEACH BLVD SUITE A, BAY ST LOUIS, MS 39520-4512 | Tax-exempt since Nov. 1978

      EIN: 64-0203203
      Nonprofit Tax Code Designation: 501(c)(6)
      Defined as: Business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, etc, created for the improvement of business conditions.
      Donations to this organization are not tax deductible.
      More Resources: ArrowGuideStar ArrowNational Center for Charitable Statistics

      Form 990 Returns, by Year

      The IRS Form 990 is an annual information return that most organizations claiming federal tax-exempt status must file yearly.

  12. Now the chamber is requesting $208,000 annually from the tax payers to run tourism and economic development.

    As Per 2015 990 Tax Filing
    # Chamber Dues: $118,215
    #Chamber Directors Salary: $118,717
    Do the Math

    Who benefits more from the Chamber? The Director or the Dues Payers.

    1. So this 990 Report says that all of the dues collected by the Chamber are not enough to cover ONE salary?!
      How do they make up the difference?
      How much are the other staff salaries?
      What funds services to members and promotion of their businesses?
      How often are dues raised? It’s apparent what they go to!
      Is a treasurer’s report
      presented to the Board of Director’s regularly?
      I can’t imagine s group of business people approving this!!

      1. Ms Lana, they do approve. BD of Dir. listed on 990 also approves 990. Seems like same Supervisors as two years. Talk the talk, but let them walk with the $$$$. Check out the most significant budget in Hancock County: Sheriff’s Office! Stagnant as standing water….. SAD

        1. Fact,
          Are the financials reported to the Chamber general membership at least annually? What do you mean by “stagnant” in the Sheriff’s budget?

          1. Scan whole 990: According to 990 report it states all positions and Board members. It also states that 990 is shared and reviewed by “all members annually.. ???? Sheriff budget received last 6 years has been given, reduced but NOT increased annually in technology, manpower, equipment etc. Bayside Park come to mind?????

      2. The other salaries are in excess $276,000.Very little left over for promoting members after the travel expenses, credit cards and entertainment. They are now a political PAC Group.

    2. Her request on streets! OMG???? Ex. Da-Rectum Chamber $118 plus. Ex. Da-Rectum Economic Develop. Ex. Durrectum Tourism Commission Commissioner Bd. Of Fake Oysters. “Plus don’t forget my 3% fee for me”! Let’s see what municipalities gets on this Pirate Float! TRUTH Best for last: Hancock Economic & Tourism Mgr. Les Fillingame!

  13. The waste collection and disposal business is a dirty one for sure. No doubt the employees of Hancock Solid Waste will fight to keep their jobs but wonder if this operation was anything like the one in a neighboring county where government officials used river front homes, boats, cars and jet skis anytime they wanted. The property was in any number of names but always picked out and used by the same city/county employee(s). Sure is nice when you are the only one who uses a boat and you don’t even have to wash it or put gas in it.

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