Sex, Earwigging and Rock and Roll: Local Businessman files salacious civil right suits against a bevy of local public officials

About a week ago Stacey Cato had a story for the Sea Coast Echo detailing a Federal lawsuit against Hancock County Justice Court Judge Jay Lagasse that I though was one for the ages. It has a little bit of everything from a nasty divorce involving a relative of Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson, who attempted to ear wig Chancellor Carter Bice on behalf of the young lady and allegations of sexual misconduct involving former Gulfport City Prosecutor Richard Smith and the Sheriff’s niece. Stacey’s story has people talking and for good reason as the allegations are salacious and the Plaintiff claims to have some pictures involving the former Gulfport City prosecutor and the young lady.

Hancock County judge named in federal lawsuit ~ Stacey Cato

A Hancock County Justice Court judge is one of nearly a dozen public officials in two coastal counties who were recently named in a federal lawsuit which claims each played a crucial role in violating a Gulf Coast businessman’s civil rights.

The suit, filed in Gulfport, alleges corruption, collusion, and conspiracy among city, county and court officials in both Hancock and Harrison counties, as well as ethics violations by the prosecution and unauthorized practice of law.

The whole story is well worth a read, especially the part where Plaintiff Wooten details pictures he has of City prosecutors carrying on with the Plaintiff’s estranged wife.

I had to see the cases for myself so I did some digging on PACER and MEC to get the skinny. Normally when I see a Civil Rights lawsuit naming over 10 public officials my dubiety meter goes off the charts and that was the case with reading Wooten’s Federal Court complaint. But then I got to the allegations against Sheriff Peterson earwigging Chancellor Carter Bice and the fact that the state court divorce case record is largely sealed. Luckily a friend stopped by to help us out and I can verify that Stacey quoted Bice’s letter to Sheriff Peterson very accurately. Here is a snippet:

In a letter addressed to Peterson from Chancery Court Judge Carter Bice on Jan. 8, 2019, it says, “Judges are forbidden from engaging in ex parte, or in private communications, with parties or potential witnesses regarding a pending or impending proceeding.” It goes on to say, ”These rules are designed to keep legal proceedings fair and neutral…….” Bice further explains, “These rules prohibited me from discussing the merits of your niece’s case with you.”

Judges have very broad immunity from such lawsuits so it is unclear what exposures Justice Court Judge Lagasse has here but it is equally clear Mr. Wooten feels aggrieved and is willing to haul the entire crew into Court, including a few public officials like Gulfport Police Chief Len Papania that is not alleged to have done much of anything. Several Motions to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)6 have already been filed in the Federal Court matter so we’ll know soon enough if the case proceeds past the preliminary stages.

Finally, Stacey deserves props for telling a hard to report story well. I’m glad to see it appear on the Echo’s website after running in last Wednesday’s paper.

34 thoughts on “Sex, Earwigging and Rock and Roll: Local Businessman files salacious civil right suits against a bevy of local public officials”

  1. HERE’S ONE FOR PACER:
    What is going on in Waveland???? At last night’s city meeting, the new City Attorney told the Mayor and Aldermen that “something has to be done to get the utility system back in the black.”
    I asked the Mayor why we are in the red. His answer was because of “the Brown lawsuit, and that he couldn’t discuss it.” Well, someone needs to discuss it if it has taken our utility dept. down. What damages did we pay, and for what, and how are we paying the damages? Through the utility customers? What court was in tried in, or was it settled? MINUTES, WE NEED MINUTES!!!

    1. That’s interesting. Usually utilities are considered enterprise funds with revenues dedicated to the enterprise. Furthermore, unless your local government entity is rich with money, one usually will float bonds and all revenues are obligated to repayment and as a pledge. Bond counsel who are not Ray Charles in practice frown upon diverting funds from bond payments and utility functions to lawsuits unless related to the specific enterprise. You’d at least have some written communication from bond counsel authorizing such given the fact that you are affecting bond security and repayment.

      1. Al, I am just starting from square one here.
        I want to know who filed against us, what for, and what the judgement was since the Attorney and Mayor confirmed last night the negative effect on our utility dept.

          1. Al, I am just starting from square one here.
            I want to know who filed against us, what for, and what the judgement was since the Attorney and Mayor confirmed last night the negative effect on our utility dept.

  2. Right, Lana. But your city attorney may have inadvertently opened up the proverbial can of worms if for no other reason than admitting to lack of conformity to government budget and accounting practices.
    Does the Brown case relate to the functioning of the utility? If not, what principled basis exists to utilize funds which are 1) dedicated to utility operations and/or 2) constitute revenue to service bonds AND pledged as security to repayment of bonds (Yes, I know I’m assuming at least bond counsel doing their job).
    I have little faith in legislative auditors for often they’ll denounce someone filching a few hundred bucks when you have crime families making off with millions. An observation based on empiricism. But should prove interesting if your state’s version of a legislative auditor requires reports on litigation which, if your mayor has a functioning IQ, has adversely affected an entity’s financial posture, which the lawsuit certainly has so affected, per your own local gauleiter.
    I just love this type of nonsense because at the end of the day demonstrates the many levels of corruption a/k/a the State. Everyone down the line okays the extortion until it hits the taxpayer who has no recourse.

    1. The Mayor is the index who volunteered the info assigning the Brown lawsuit as the reason we have a defunct utility department. There has to be a way to locate that document. The City Clerk may get to actually do his job!!

      1. Update—Mayor just admitted on Facebook that Brown case was a settlement, so he may not be able to talk about it. Somebody please tell me if that is accurate. Public money and the taxpayers who paid cannot know what they doled out? Unreal. I have heard our sister city, Bay St. Louis, discuss what they had to dole out to settle out of court.

        1. Ms Lana. I did not say that you cannot know nor did I say we doled out money. I did infact say that I didn’t know to what extent I could say but that I would have you an answer tomorrow.

            1. Lana

              to impact the utilities then you’d see some corresponding budget amendment to the utilities budget. And, you would need see some description as to where the funds are going. Certainly no state or local government in the US has a no-description budget amendment saying “X dollars is withdrawn” without stating where going. Indeed, such an open ended appropriation is against standard local government budget acts in the 50 states.

              1. “Page 1
                CITY OF WAVELAND
                Audited Financial Statements
                And
                Special Reports
                For the Year Ended September 30, 2017

                Page 4
                2
                Opinions
                In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above present fairly, in all material respects, the respective financial position of the governmental activities, the business-type activities, each major fund and the aggregate remaining fund information of the City of Waveland as of September 30, 2017, and the respective changes in financial position and cash flows thereof for the year then ended in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.

                Other Matters

                Required Supplementary Information

                Accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America require that the Budgetary Comparison Schedule, the Schedule of the City’s Contributions, the Schedule of the City’s Proportionate Share of the Net Pension Liability, and corresponding notes be presented to supplement the basic financial statements. Such information, although not a part of the basic financial statements is required by the Governmental Accounting
                Standards Board who considers it to be an essential part of financial reporting for placing the basic financial statements in appropriate operational, economic or historical context. We have applied certain limited procedures to the required supplementary information in accordance with auditing standards generally accepted in the United States of America, which consisted of inquiries of management about the methods of preparing the information and comparing the information for consistency with management’s responses to our inquiries, the basic financial statements, and other knowledge we obtained during our audit of the basic financial statements. We do not express an opinion or provide any assurance on the information because the limited procedures do not provide us with sufficient evidence to express an opinion or provide any assurance.

                Omission of Required Supplementary Information

                The City of Waveland, Mississippi, has omitted the Management’s Discussion and Analysis that accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America requires to be presented to supplement the basic financial statements. Such missing information, although not a part of the basic financial statements, is required by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board who considers it to be an essential part of financial
                reporting for placing the basic financial statements in appropriate perational, economic or historical context. Our opinion on the basic financial statements is not affected by this missing information.”

                Source: http://waveland.ms.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Audit-2017-Windham-Lacey.pdf

              2. DISCUSS:

                Page 13

                CITY OF WAVELAND
                Exhibit 7
                Statement of Revenues, Expenses and Changes in Fund Net Position
                Proprietary Fund
                For the Year Ended September 30, 2017

                Business-type Activity
                Water/Sewer

                OPERATING REVENUES
                Charges for services $ 3,315,029
                Miscellaneous revenues 232,521
                Total Operating Revenues 3,547,550

                OPERATING EXPENSES
                Personal services 600,675
                Contractual services 1,253,317
                Maintenance 257,698
                Materials and supplies 86,226
                Utilities 125,728
                Depreciation expense 2,741,375
                Other operating expenses 7,395

                Total Operating Expenses 5,072,414

                Operating Income (Loss) (1,524,864)

                SOURCE: http://waveland.ms.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Audit-2017-Windham-Lacey.pdf

              3. ADDITIONAL (SAME PAGE CONTINUED):

                Page 13
                1
                CITY OF WAVELAND
                Exhibit 7
                Statement of Revenues, Expenses and Changes in Fund Net Position
                Proprietary Fund
                For the Year Ended September 30, 2017

                NONOPERATING REVENUES (EXPENSES)
                Interest income 5,761
                Interest expense (69,469)
                Total Nonoperating Revenue (Expenses) (63,708)

                Transfers out (353,035)
                Change in Net Position (1,941,607)

                Total Net Position – Beginning 74,982,587
                Prior period adjustment (274,674)
                Total Net Position – Beginning, as restated 74,707,913
                Total Net Position – Ending $72,766,306
                The notes to the financial statements are an integral part of this statement

                SOURCE: http://waveland.ms.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Audit-2017-Windham-Lacey.pdf

              4. I don’t question your description of how things should be done . The Mayor assigning the utility fund deficit to the lawsuit is the enigma. That has to be explained to the public.

    2. Al,
      At least we now know, after digging, that it was never called the Brown case. Was that the Mayor’s attempt to delay the inevitable?! Mr. Transparency himself!
      rfp has nailed it for us with this Federal Court PDF.
      I am reviewing minutes now and they are, let’s be charitable, and say ” interesting.”
      Stay tuned!😎

      1. Lana I did not attempt to delay the inevitable. Michael brown owns gulf shore property as well as oak park properties. I know him is the reason I stated his name. Yes transparency! It was approved June 2018. I have nothing to hide from you or anyone else.

  3. Don’t turn to bsl days and the lying les regime and not pay utility bills.
    4 months behind on utility bills.
    Borrowed $600,000
    Refinanced al utility loan because he used that money to pay buddies.
    Hired his buddies for votes.
    Blowez , what a useless weasel
    Oliver dumb as a brick
    Useless worm Loicano $55,000 a year to pick up cigarette buts in 2 blocks of the city and just at prime times so he could be seen.
    Paula big raise
    Don’t forget kolf and fat raff
    Every time this council and administration speaks about the audit they had done last year all you hear is about the $100’sK dollars they lost out on and how screwed up the billing is.
    Don’t get there Waveland.
    Stay black.

  4. Okay, moving right along—checked with Hancock County Circuit and Chancery Courts this morning. Neither have any records of any lawsuit between Brown and Waveland. Will approach Fed in Gulfport this afternoon. Visited Waveland City Hall and made a Public Records Request for the minutes and all pertinent documentation related to suit. Mayor was out, and his secretary had a Do Not Disturb sign on her door. We are going to find out why we have an “in the red” Utility Dept.

    1. Hello!
      This could possible be pertinent to the discussion.

      Civil No. 1:16cv437-HSO-JCG

      01-25-2018

      GULF SHORE PROPERTIES, LLC, OAK PARK MISSISSIPPI PROPERTIES, LLC, WAVELAND PROPERTIES, LLC, and MICHAEL L. BROWN PLAINTIFFS/COUNTER-DEFENDANTS v. CITY OF WAVELAND, MISSISSIPPI and THE BOARD OF MAYOR AND ALDERMEN OF THE CITY OF WAVELAND, MISSISSIPPI DEFENDANTS/COUNTER-PLAINTIFFS”

      https://casetext.com/case/gulf-shore-props-llc-v-city-of-waveland

      “BEFORE THE COURT is the Motion [45] to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint filed by Defendants/Counter-Plaintiffs the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Waveland, Mississippi, and the City of Waveland, Mississippi (“Waveland” or “the City”). Plaintiffs/Counter-Defendants in this litigation are Gulf Shore Properties, LLC, Oak Park Mississippi Properties, LLC, Waveland Properties, LLC, and Michael Brown (collectively, “Gulf Shore”). Gulf Shore’s Second Amended Complaint advances several claims against Waveland arising from Waveland’s water ordinance and charges for water usage. ”

      BONUS ALLEGATION INCLUDED BELOW!

      “Late fees and charges incurred by the previous owner of the complexes have also been allegedly included in Gulf Shore’s water bill. Id. at 2. Gulf Shore further complains that monthly statements regularly include charges for improperly computed late fees, and late fees upon late fees, which compounds the charges. Id. Gulf Shore asserts that on several occasions, it submitted checks for payment of the water bills, but Waveland did not properly credit these checks, resulting in improper imposition of late fees. Id. at 5. A Notice of Claim, which is attached as an exhibit to the Second Amended Complaint, contends that these injuries occurred [b]etween February 28, 2011 and June 6, 2016.” Id.

      On November 16, 2016, Waveland held a meeting of its Board of Aldermen to vote on and ultimately approve an amended water and sewer ordinance, Ordinance #371, which purportedly affected Gulf Shore’s rights. Second Am. Compl. [28] at 6. Gulf Shore claims that Waveland failed to provide Gulf Shore with notice that Ordinance #371 had been placed on the agenda for the Board’s consideration at this meeting. Id. Waveland was allegedly aware of Gulf Shore’s concerns about the water rates and fees because the parties were regularly communicating with each other regarding Waveland’s practices and ordinances. Id. B. “

          1. Wasn’t wowing about water ordinance. Was wowing about lawsuit and the information in our audit that rfp was able to download. It may not mean anything to you. I get that. But it does to those of us who care about the responsible handling of public funds.

            1. I we have always been very frugal with the city funds. As you know the Board And I are also taxpayers and are very critical of our dept heads to stay within their budgets. The city is fortunate to have the ability to invest $2.5 million that should return $70,00 in interest to help with cost of living raises to our employees and also getting the deobligated fema funds of $1.5 million Returned to the city (first in the US) along with the $1.4 million budgeted equates to approximately $3 million to be used as match money for necessary projects to benefit the citizens. Understand that the cities utility fund is not quite in the red yet but if can’t get paid for water used by gulfsfore properties then we will. And may require an amendment to water rates You will see the delima. I actually appreciate what you do to expose issues but Think that you could be open minded prior to placing blame by obtaining the facts first. Just an observation. Thank you

              1. Mike,
                This statement of yours is light years from what you said at the meeting of last Wed. Nov. 20 when City Attorney, Malcom Jones advised the Board of Aldermen that something had to be done to get our utility department “back in the black.”
                Rather than correct the attorney, you assigned the cause of the deficit, or operating loss, as cited by our independent auditing firm, Windham and Lacey in the 2017 audit, to the Gulf Shores Lawsuit against the city and the utility ordinance the Board passed in 2016.
                If you knew something Mr. Jones and Windham and Lacey didn’t, you had the opportunity to correct them right then at the meeting. You stated on Social Media this week that the lawsuit was settled 2 years ago. Now you are saying in today’s post that it is not because Gulf Shores hasn’t paid the city. Which is it?
                Here’s how open minded I am. You also stated on Social Media this week that you and the Board speak through your minutes. So, I went back and read your minutes.
                In the 2017 audit by Windham and Lacey, the firm stated that the utility department had an operating loss of $1,524,864, which report included maintenance and depreciation. The Board of Aldermen accepted that audit and it is on file with the city and the State Auditor’s Office as required by law. I found no action by you or the Board in any minutes to correct the auditor’s findings.
                At this year’s budget hearing all departments were on the agenda to provide the Board with financial information on their departments except UTILITY DEPT.
                Last Wed. Nov.20, city attorney advised you and the Board that the utility department is still operating at a loss, and “something has to be done to get it back in black.” No correction of city attorney by you or any Board member, and total crickets from the City Clerk, who, by the way should be making that statement to you and the Board, as the City’s chief financial officer. Crickets.
                No, instead of correcting the attorney, you assign the loss or deficit to the lawsuit.
                And, today, Nov. 26, you want me to be open minded before I place blame?
                Blame is not the solution to this, Mike, responsibility and leadership are the answers to this issue. It will be interesting to see what action the Director of the Utility Dept. and the City Clerk advise the Board to take to eliminate this operating loss in our Utility Dept.

      1. rfp,
        Just out of curiosity, what is your reaction to Waveland Mayor’s interview in the Echo of Wednesday regarding the lawsuit and utility department status?
        We have gone from him saying the lawsuit is what has caused the deficit the City Attorney alerted them to, and he couldn’t talk about it. to him providing me with a copy of the suit. In the paper he says there is no deficit, so who do we believe, him or attorney?
        According to paper Waveland counter sued Gulf Shores Properties LLC for $528,000, then on 2-9-18, Waveland Mayor and Board met with their attorney and told her not to accept a penny less than $125,000. (minutes)
        At settlement the court awarded us $30,000, but we, at our expense were ordered to purchase 68 meters and install them, and adopt a new utility ordinance. I am told these meters can eat up a great portion of the $30,000, so what did we win? $$ Lots of blanks to fill in here before we know our real position it seems. AND, have we received the check from Gulf Shores, did we purchase the meters and adopt the new ordinance? All under order of the court.

    1. Malcom Jones is one of the legitimate Municipal Attorneys that we have. His back ground and results are great. Businessmen, Developers and Citizens get benefit from his experience.

      1. Rod,
        I have heard nothing negative about Malcom Jones. Will be interesting to see what he was referring to as a deficit in the utility dept. since Mayor has contradicted him in Echo Wednesday.
        Stay tuned

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