“It’s deja vu all over again”

Photo Courtesy of David Wells
Photo Courtesy of David Wells

A quick PACER sweep indicates there are two active civil suits against the City (Marquar and Issman) with three suits resolved within the past year or so. The docket at the local Circuit Clerk’s office would have the rest of the active cases involving the City.

Just a thought, but it seems like just yesterday the Bay City Council took some very bad legal advice and got in trouble with Ethics. When the opinion came out the lawyer that gave the bad advice got none of the blame as 100% of that went to the elected officials. Deservedly so I might add.

As the coming weeks unfold I’m probably going to be bringing that concept back up.

61 thoughts on ““It’s deja vu all over again””

  1. Disappointed in this administration, and most of the members of council. Sissy works for the mayor, and does as she is instructed, like all employees who value their positions.
    We need sweeping change. Change that establishes a council who pays more attention to its citizens and less to the Chamber of Commerce.
    Executive leadership that is educated and experienced, and not a good old boy with the right family ties.
    The next election may seem far away, but choosing to run, preparing to serve takes time. Now is that time.
    We have, in my judgement, two councilmen who put their constituency first. Most weren’t prepared to serve, and have been catching up since the election. The new ones had never or rarely seen a Council meeting, much less knew the backgrounds of issues facing BSL. I doubt you would hire most of these men to run you business, or your family finances. Think about who you would hire, pay your hard-earned money, and trust with your business future or your family’s.
    Most have their own very small businesses, and BSL is a large and complex government institution.
    We seem to have jumped from the fire to the frying pan. Again. Let’s put an end to ground hog day…..

  2. David Wells made his Public Records Request for the Litigation List that former City Attorney, Trent Favre made reference to all the time in his Attorney Reports to Council, at the August 7, meeting. He did this in front of the entire Council, Mayor, and City Attorney, Heather Smith. NO ONE OBJECTED. He asked for permission to hand the request to City Clerk, Gonzales, Council said yes. City Attorney, Smith, had every opportunity to tell everyone right then on August 7, what she said in her letter that City Clerk, Gonzales, forwarded to David Wells: “no list exists, and she is not required to maintain one.”
    That was August 7. The Miss. Public Records Act 25-61-5 (a) (b) ” no public body shall adopt procedures that will allow them to produce or deny a public record later than 7 working days from receipt of the request. ”
    Mr. Wells was not contacted until Friday, August 24, 14 days past the 7 day deadline outlined in the Miss. Public Records Act, which states further: Unless there is mutual agreement between parties, in no event shall the production of the requested records be any later than 14 days.
    Mr. Wells made it clear at the August 7, meeting that he wanted no details, just the same list that Trent Favre had released last year, and from which he worked and reported to Council.
    Councilman-at-Large, Gary Knoblock asked at the August 7, meeting, “why don’t we have a list?”
    Once a suit is filed, it is a public record. The tax payers who are footing the bill for all of this litigation have the right to know who is suing them ( as Doug Seal said at the August 7, meeting, “everybody is suing us.”) or who they are suing.
    Does Carter-Bice run a tighter ship than Butler-Snow? It seems the city’s needs righting right now legally, but is the “right person at the helm?”
    I am hearing the City Attorney has become a “woman of letters.” Council may want to make sure they are all cleared by them!!
    Does the attorney have a written contract with the city? If not, it is time for one, gentlemen, past time.

    1. So glad I started reading Slab…my rep lives in the pass, Gene smart but ill, Gary I like cause he’s not scared to ask any questions openly, Larry & Josh running City with numerous secret meetings and Reed is never there and Buddy was sworn in and is absent since….I will pay attention Rachel from here on ….. Tks

    2. If such a list has been created, Ms. Smith may wish to reconsider her position. Likewise, those who are interested in such a created list may wish to research the recent dustup between Joel Bomgar and John Dowdy at the MS DPS/MBN, the gist being that even if no obligation to create a document existed, once it has been created, it is subject to FOIA requests. Here’s a starting point:


      As an aside, I’d offer that attempting to prevent the public from gaining information by playing games is just as ill-considered as Mr. Dowdy (who is an attorney and former AUSA who knows better) attempting to hinder Mr. Bomgar (a particularly bad choice, in my opinion) by playing games with legislators. If Ms. Smith is by some weird chance reading this, just give out the damned list. If you are worth your Bar card, you know needlessly antagonizing “the opposing party” is never smart practice. Moreover, while the citizens aren’t the client, they really aren’t the opposing party but rather, more of a party at interest but who needless gamesmanship could turn into the opposing party, at least in a lay sense.

      1. One more thing – if an attorney doesn’t have a list of the litigation in which they are counsel of record, that is a problem. Note that “litigation” and “clients” are different things; an attorney may well have lots of “clients” but litigation is another matter entirely. Once complaints, etc., have been filed, deadlines, discovery, legal research, expert designations, rules and myriad other things come into play and without a case status list, things are going to be a tangled mess. In other words, if the city attorney doesn’t have such a list, that is more worrisome than being unwilling to provide at least a list redacted to cause styling only on a FOIA request.

        What is interesting is that she has now stated that she does not have a list and that *ANY* records are “work product.” True enough, any real work product on such a list is and should be protected, so without seeing exactly what was requested, I cannot comment on that aspect, but I’d still say if the request was really “in what lawsuits is the city currently a named party?” or similar, just providing what is hopefully a short list of the cause styles would have been the prudent course for a reasonable city attorney.

        1. She went further than saying she didn’t have the list. She said she’s not required to maintain one. That is mind blowing. Mr. Wells was very specific. He stated just a list of cases the city is involved in, no details. This was provided by the previous city attorney in matter of days. No drama. Mrs. Smith snubbed Mr. Wells for 20 days, way beyond what the Public Records Act allows, way beyond. Inexcusable.

          1. I can’t think of any specific requirement that such a list be maintained by a city attorney, regardless of it being good case management. That said, while I don’t question that you are stating what you believe to be true, it is still not the actual FOIA request. The picture is of what appears to be an email response to “Linda Garcia” and referencing “Mr. Wells” (I have no idea who either are), but no one has posted an exact quote of entire request (apparently things have been posted as “quotes” that aren’t actually _quotes_ from anything), or better yet, the actual FOIA request.

            Reading the email(?) pictured, even assuming Gonzales did speak accurately for Smith in it, I would have questions about the exact wording of the request. Read what the email actually says: Smith allegedly responded to Gonzales and said that no such record exists which would satisfy the request and that no such record is required to be maintained. Both statements are likely literally accurate. Why not just post the request and the letter from Smith that you quoted about no list existing? The pictured email(?) doesn’t say that. The email says that Smith said that no record exists which will satisfy the request for the “City’s current litigation list as of August 2018” (quote in the email). If nothing else, on August 7, 2018, I would have asked for something current as of July, 2018 (or MAYBE August 6, 2018 or as of the time and date of the answer if an up-to-the-day response was crucial for some reason).

      2. Nunya Bidness,
        The citizens aren’t the client? That’s debatable.
        But what they most certainly are is the ” bank” from which her hourly rate is paid!
        They don’t mind biting the hand that feeds them.
        Mr. Wells adhered to the City’s policy in making his request.He doesn’t deserve to be jerked around like this.

  3. Rachael,
    You are assuming the mayor told the clerk not to give this information to Mr. Wells. Have not seen anything in Ice’s 5 years of office that he tried to hide. And why this? Something that’s public record and Anyone can get this information. Dont bye this at all.
    If I had to guess your 2 councilman that is so good would be seal and gary.
    Seal because he ask for your help with the casino as you have stated numerous times in meetings.
    And gary?
    WTF was seal the last 8 years with his numbers person BS or show me everything attitude. Him and reed are partially responsible for the first 4 years of lying les administration and wouldn’t support the 3 amigos as he named.
    Gary wants to take from employees because his private business doesn’t provide anything.
    Lana if she does not have a list at that time than Mr. Wells request can not be given. If something doesn’t exist than how can you give it? It is public record so why do we have to pay for our attorney to put one together? Let’s charge for these request. Mr. Wells or you or anyone else can go get this information!
    Now , What very bad legal advice was given to the council that got them in trouble with Ethics?? Did I miss something or is this lana and gang’s opinion. I have not seen anything in writing to support your comments.
    Again , a whole lot of assuming and bad feelings against the administration.
    Now show me the black and white that supports your statements.
    Welcome aboard cedar. Just make sure the facts are there to back up statements and not just assume they are accurate or the opinion of one. Do some homework

    1. Stone,
      Let’s stay on the subject at hand, politics aside.
      In answer to your comment on the litigation list not existing when Mr. Wells requested it on the night of August 7, Mrs. Smith had every opportunity to say just that to him and the Council she represents. One of them, Knoblock, even asked, “why don’t we have this?” She was silent.
      Here’s the timeline Mr. Wells has had to deal with:
      Wells made his request at around 6:30pm, August 7, at Public Forum with not one city official objecting.
      City Clerk, Gonzales, shared with Wells that she emailed Mrs. Smith the next day, August 8, for her to process the request. (as Trent Favre had done last year). Smith had 7 working days to respond according to statute.
      TWELVE (12) working days later, August 24, Mrs. Smith finally responds to the City Clerk, saying “it doesn’t exist, and I don’t have to maintain one anyway.”
      Your City Attorney is in violation of the Miss. Public Records Act. Period.
      David Wells, like the other members of The Hancock County Alliance for Good Government, are good critical thinkers. We try to abide by the policies of the public bodies we interact with on a regular basis, and expect them to abide by the state laws governing their execution of the public’s business.
      If you haven’t seen anything in writing to support our comments, you need to do your homework, and your first assignment can be the Miss. Public Records Act. Title 25–41-1 through 41-17.
      To Mayor Favre’s credit, he did intervene, and shared some of the information with Mr. Wells. We will continue this effort until the law is carried out and Mr. Wells receives the information he requested according to the process outlined in the statute for both parties–requestor and public body.
      By the way, Stone, are really asking the public in Bay St. Louis to believe that an attorney will accept a position as Counsel to a municipality, and not review the litigations she will have to execute for them? That’s a bit of a stretch, in my opinion, and it was the first bull Judge Favre took by the horns when he took over as city attorney–cleaning up the long list of neglected litigations left behind from Mr. Rafferty. Perhaps that’s why Doug titled this post “deja vu all over again” and he wasn’t referring to Trent.

    2. I don’t like to address people who have large opinions, but a fear of using their own names.
      Mike F and I are friends. After two years, I am more than concerned about the direction we’re headed. He’s a nice guy who lacks the background to handle the job. Pure and simple. But he can cook.
      You can guess about the councilmen I was talking about, but you miss the larger point. We have seven, and only two are doing what they are paid to do, represent their constituency.

      1. Rachael, it has been 1 year not 2
        Councilman representing the constituents is another thing. They are also there to represent and do what is best for all of BSL.
        And as far as handling the job Ice seems to be way better than lying les who was educated. Gov. Is no different than a private business or corporate giant.
        Put qualified people in positions, give them the tools and people and let them do their job. If not you get rid of them. It seems he is doing that. But he is up front and straight, no BS. Like it or not.
        Education doesn’t make you a success. Look in Jackson and Washington. Lots of educated idiots.
        And lana I didn’t ask for citizens to buy into her not having a list. I’m sure she has the cases on her computer. Trent may have had one but that doesn’t mean everyone has one. I also remember some not too happy with his answers on some questions or questioning his decisions or telling him he was wrong. Just like now.
        Also would like to see the full reply that was sent on the yacht club from DOR or whoever sent it that Doug referenced.
        Maybe that could clear something’s up.

        Doug , will you please post the entire letter you referenced about the yacht club from DOR or whoever sent it?
        Also what was asked of them?
        Thank You Sir.

        1. You’re incorrect, sir. Government accounting and business accounting are very different, making the businesses different. That’s part of what education gives people, a clear understanding of the facts.

          1. Rachael, 1+1=2
            No different.
            Government Private Corporation
            Common sense prevails.
            Last mayor was educated and working on law education.
            Local Jackson and Washington proves education is overrated. No offense. Sorry
            And you don’t get gov. education till you are involved in it. School classes don’t teach you reality.
            Common Sense Prevails.

            1. Common sense is always invaluable, but I value formal education as well. Since you don’t use your name, I assume you lack it, no offense intended.
              Mike is a nice man with a high school education. At one time, that was enough. It no longer is.
              The fact that you don’t know the difference in government, a private business, and a public business proves that point.
              Again, Mississippi is number fifty for a reason.
              When you, and others realize why, we may move up and ahead.

  4. I don’t mean this as blunt as it may sound, but no, the client is not debatable. The client is the person or entity that has the lawyer-client relationship and it is not the citizens. The citizens didn’t hire nor can they fire the city attorney nor do they own the lawyer-client privilege. But as I said, a good lawyer, even a merely competent one, should not and would not needlessly taunt tertiary parties such as a/the citizen(s), and especially not over something like a simple list of cause styles, assuming that it all the FOIA request asked for.

    1. Nun,
      When Judge Trent Favre became City Attorney, the first thing he told his client (Council) was they had a lot of unresolved litigation, and it needed to be cleared up. He would report at the Attorney’s Report on the Agenda on the ” Litigation List”David Well’s Request was the same as mine last year- no details– just a list of cases the city has filed and pending. I had no trouble getting my request provided.

      1. Different lawyer and different FOIA request. A couple of points: first, thus far I’ve taken everything at face value as this is just a casual discussion, and second, the pictured email(?) from Gonzales to Garcia is without foundation and hearsay as to Smith. If whatever current request did encompass legit work product, I would have expected that to be reflected as a demurrer/objection to the request as written, not a denial that such a list existed. If I wanted a list of litigation in which the city and /or its officials are named part(ies), I would have asked for a list of cause styles and no more.

        I am only passingly familiar with a limited few coast part-time city attorneys, past and present over the last 30-plus years. Admittedly, I cannot think of a single one of those I would recommend to anyone for any reason and several of that limited number are dubious as to being fit to be in the profession, but I cannot recall hearing of Ms. Smith prior to this. As such, I cannot and will not form any opinion about her based upon postings in response to a picture of a supposed email of which she isn’t an author or even copied.

  5. I guess we get the same level of representation like her Father.
    We all know there are several litigation suits against the city. It is a small town and the city Attorney should be honest and forward this list. We the citizens of BSL have a right to know who and what for we have pending suits against our taxes.

    1. Is there a “Slabbed Code Book” available? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, posting in “code” does nothing but diminish readership interest. Obviously, some posters know who is meant when using all the nicknames, but most potential readers do not know Slabbedspeak, so those who use such insider terms are doing nothing but preaching to the choir. If that is the goal, so be it, but if the goal is share information and attract new readers and posters, such terms greatly hinder it.

      1. Our main goal here at Slabbed is the Miss. Code and getting the public officials to come on board with us and adhere to it. It a task, though, quite a task. Did you understand this post of mine?

          1. Slabbed is owned by Slabbed New Media, LLC. Slabbed New Media exists to inform and on occasion to entertain and certainly not to make me wealthy. The commenting community here has been noted for being more thoughtful than social media as a whole and I consider the more frequent commenters to be ambassadors of the website. In that sense it is “our website”. As an added bonus people behave better when they feel a sense of ownership of the ideas being conveyed.

      2. LOL I agree Nun. As to Ms Smith, she was formerly Ms Ladner & is the attorney of record for any number of gov’t agencies around here; Hancock Utility Authority, Hancock Solid Waste Authority, of course the City of BSL … it’s my guess that she purposely did not create a “Litigation List” yet somehow includes the info in her reports

        1. It’s my guess that no competent attorney has (or would create) a list of litigation that she or he will put forth as current for the rest of the month of August on August 7 (or any other date during August). It is also my guess, and I’m not suggesting anyone did anything intentionally, that all of the relevant facts surrounding the FOIA request under discussion haven’t been posted and some of the things posted as facts aren’t actually facts.

          If Ms. Smith formerly being Ms. Ladner is meaningful, you’ll need to explain it.

            1. Granted, all the inter-related parties in Hancock County, Bay St. Louis, etc., government is not, er, “optically ideal” (or in my opinion, even a good idea) but if there is no impermissible conflict or rule(s) violation, family relationship isn’t proof of anything untoward, either. In a perfect world, government positions, elected or appointed and paid or unpaid, would be limited to one per family, but it isn’t a perfect world. As to the specifics, is there any reason Ms. Smith being Jimmie Ladner’s daughter is relevant to the FOIA “litigation list” issue?

              1. Nunya,
                Kill the Farve’s Favre’s Ladner’s Ladnier’s Adam’s Kellar’s Moran’s Cuevas’s Smith’s LaFontaine’s or anyone related to them. Kill them off?
                Like it or not they are Hancock County!
                You don’t like it ?
                Get the hell out or don’t move here!
                BS getting old.

                Doug Lana Rachael and the rest,
                Still want to see the questions to DOR and their reply in full!
                Doug we deserve this!
                You referenced it!
                Give it to us!
                Or is this the deja vu you are referring to?
                Sounds a lot like what everyone is whinny about!
                Show me and the rest of your followers the full response!
                Looking forward to seeing the DOR reply!

          1. Nun,
            Slabbed can only post what Mrs. Gonzales has been given by Mrs. Smith. If it isn’t released, how can Doug post it?! As far as ” who” the City Attorney is? It makes no difference to me. Anyone the city officials hire should abide by statutes.

            1. I’m not suggesting anyone should have posted something they did not have, I’m simply saying that forming opinions based upon snippets of information is likely to lead to mistakes. The only thing I see is what appears to be an email from Ms. Gonzales to “Linda Garcia” referencing Mr. Wells’ request. Just because it alleges what Ms. Smith responded in a certain way doesn’t mean that she actually did so. You posted quotes not in the pictured email and for the purposes of discussion, I took them as accurate. If you weren’t actually quoting something, that is a different matter. Basically, until more is known, I’m about done with this.

              1. Nunya,

                Always appreciate your keen observations and ability to quickly discern useful information from the sometimes superfluous commentary bantered about here.

                Look forward to the next time you choose to opine on any topic up for discussion.

  6. Hope everyone reads the editorial in the Sun Herald this morning by our new State Auditor, Chad White, on transparency in government. Hope he can maintain his enthusiasm and not be corrupted. We all know he will be challenged by the good ole boys!!

  7. 12:20 pm now Sunday at S. Beach Restaurant. Group of 8 discussing BSL. Know 3! “Only Seal, Hoffman and Knoblock has health insurance otherwise for their families. Other four has kids, themselves grabbing full bore on health, dental etc.”. Ms. Rachel/Ms. Lana, is that possible? Carry family too?

    1. Only Doug Seal does not accept the BSL paid health insurance. The rest do.
      Big problem for me.
      If you examine it, all are independent businessmen, except Seal. They have no company health insurance, so they allow BSL to pick up the tab. Plus their salaries of nearly $2,000 a month.

      1. Very costly. I have a copy of the payroll ordinance, but would prefer to update it before I share it. Our insurance took a big hike last year, and I want to see what’s in the budget this year.
        We also supply the mayor and police chief with new vehicles. You won’t find that codified either.

        1. Rachael, Really a vehicle for the chief?
          A vehicle for the mayor or administration?
          You and Oliver Really?

          1. What’s your point?
            They are expenses that are not codified.
            If you can please tell me where we agree to buy vehicles for people, other than the police and fire departments, I’d appreciate it.
            Stone cold, AKA I don’t have the spine to use my own name.

    1. Are you certain it covers the family? They may be able to get the family included, but have to pay. That is an excellent question for the Budget Hearing this coming Thursday night- Sept. 6 at 5;30 pm, I think.

  8. Does the judge and prosecutor and defense attorney get insurance ?
    Councilman? and one wants to cut full time employee benefits that makes so little to start with.
    Want to cut, start with your own.

  9. I am seeing some good questions for Council at the Budget Hearing scheduled for Thursday evening, Sept. 6 from posters here!
    Let’s hope our little potential “visitor” in the Gulf doesn’t mess things up this week.
    Mark your calendars and be there if all is on go.

    1. What’s your point?
      They are expenses that are not codified.
      If you can please tell me where we agree to buy vehicles for people, other than the police and fire departments, I’d appreciate it.
      Stone cold, AKA I don’t have the spine to use my own name.

    1. Great point, David. And I bet those private, independent businessmen on Council don’t offer their part time employees insurance?!

  10. I don’t see a problem with Mayor or Fire Chief getting a car. The police chief gets a city police car if they want and the fire chief should also have a vehicle. He can’t always ride on the fire truck..

    These are petty things. Look at the big picture. Part time employees like Council getting health insurance. that costs more than a new vehicle each year.. The position is more of a civic one to want to serve for the better of the city and community, not to benefit from health insurance. Most members are business or retired and should have their own insurance. It should be abolished or changed for any new council members if elected. The current board should be given 12 months notice to start looking for new insurance. Allow in this budget, but cut it out of the next.
    Rachel what is the total cost of health insurance yearly for our illustrious council members?? And who is getting it??

    1. What is wrong with offering council members insurance, specifically? If the determination is made that the position is worth, for example, $20,000 per year, with $10,000 as salary and $10,000 as benefits, why would it matter to to the city coffers to change it to $20,000 per year all salary? From what was posted, at least one member chooses not to take it because that member has insurance via his “civilian” job. That represents a savings to the city and a flat-salary-no-benefits scenario would actually cost the city more.

      I would suggest the real question is, “what is the total expenditure necessary to reasonably and fairly compensate council members?” rather than “in what form is the reasonable and fair amount of compensation provided?” I would further suggest that health insurance might be – might be, not is – a wise financial incentive in that the net economic effect to the recipient is greater than the cost to the city due to group rates versus individual rates. The use of a city-owned vehicle or other “perqs” might be similar cost-vs-value incentives. Such incentives are common in business so why not use them in government?

      1. I’m a private company guy, my experience is that outside directors do not get employee benefits. As a general rule inside directors do get bennies but are typically not paid anything extra for Board service. Outside directors typically are paid director fees via “straight check”.

        How does that translate to a government? Not very well.

        There is one current councilman whose only reason for running was to get the health insurance. He attends the meetings but devotes zero time to meeting preparation and generally just sits there and tries to look engaged. Pay and benefits do not guarantee good job performance.

        Private sector enterprises typically use compensation studies (formal with a consultant or informal by surveying competitors and using available trade data) to set their pay scales. I am not knowledgeable of how much, if any, due diligence went into the Bay’s compensation changes.

        1. I’m simply commenting on the issue of health insurance. I have no idea of the actual numbers, but if insurance costs the city, for example, $10K per councilperson as a member of its existing group plan, but it worth on average $12K in real terms to each (and ignoring for now that each councilperson’s specific premium would be different for a variety of reasons), it would likely be a “win-win” for all parties. As to the councilman alleged to have sought office solely for health insurance, I do not know anything about that or him nor have I seen any evidence of it, so I cannot comment. I do agree that pay and benefits do not guarantee performance, but I’d also say that, in general, employers are like other consumers – they very often get what they pay for.

          As to outside director compensation, I wouldn’t consider that role to be a particularly appropriate comparison to a city councilperson, but that is just my opinion. One particular reason is the myriad and widely-varying reasons people accept board positions, including controlling the board for their own financial interests. While often perfectly acceptable, even expected, in business, it certainly would not be appropriate (or legal) in government. Which is not to say that it doesn’t regularly occur in government despite its inappropriateness or illegality, but that is another topic.

          As to fair and reasonable compensation for being a Bay St. Louis city councilperson, I don’t know what they receive now, much less how it was determined or when, or even what would be reasonable in either salary or time expectancy, so I cannot comment. I would offer that it ought to be enough so that any citizen can reasonably afford to take the job and it should reflect the amount of time it takes a competent person to do a reasonable job.

          1. The make around $20K salary plus the benefits. With the load that works to between $30 and $35K total per councilman.

            Little known fact and this was shared with me by someone with direct knowledge whose name is not Mike Favre but when Mike was councilman at large one of his paychecks a month went to CASA. I imagine there are current councilmen doing something similar.

            IN the public company world, companies that pay per meeting fees pay between $1,500 and $2,000/meeting but that does not count options and other forms of compensation.


            The better comparisons would be Gulfport, Biloxi and Hattiesburg, which are all strong mayor towns.

  11. What do other Council/Aldermen receive coast wide? Salaries and health benefits plus any other benefits or perks included?
    I think BSL is one of the highest paying. 20K a year for what? meeting once a month and doing nothing the other 29/30 days a month?
    It is a part time job. Based on the pay per hour, the city should re-evaluate the compensation.
    The city probably has many employees only making a little more than that working 35/40 hours a week. This definitely needs to be looked at. I would like to know how many of the members donate their salaries and those that choose to keep it. Also who gets health benefits.

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