On February 1, 2019 the Mississippi Ethics Commission cited the Bay St Louis City Council for violating the Mississippi Open Meeting law in the matter styled Noonan v Mayor and Councilmen of the City of Bay St Louis. In what is a recurring theme with a different cast of characters, the City conducted an improper executive session which resulted in the removal of Ellis Anderson from the Bay St Louis Historical Preservation Commission.
The opinion is not yet on the Ethics Commission website but I have seen portions of it. Essentially the Council and Mayor in the City of Bay St Louis are on the receiving end of an ethics compliant that mostly resulted from not receiving good legal advice from Board attorney Heather Ladner Smith, who failed to caution the Mayor and Council not to act on an item which was not contained on the official meeting agenda. Smith, the politically connected daughter of Hancock County Tax Collector Jimmie Ladner took over as City Attorney when Trent Favre was appointed County Court Judge.
According to Mrs. Noonan, Ms. Smith of the Butler Snow law firm is providing legal services to the City without a formal written contract, a practice the previous administration was advised to discontinue by the Office of the State Auditor.
They sure did folks involving two separate incidents, the first involving the Delta water contract and the other involving lunch with developer Jim Macphaille at his restaurant 200 North Beach. This document is not yet online at Mississippi Ethics so Slabbed’s readers get the sneak peek.
I am aware of several other ethics complaints that have been made against the City, I suspect each is very close to a resolution. Stay tuned.
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.
What I am getting right now are accounts of last night’s meeting but I feel safe in saying the taxpayers of the great state of Mississippi could well save money if the Ethics Commission would open a branch office at Highway 90 and Main Street in Bay St Louis.
I want to see the show for myself before I comment further but it appears these gatherings of City Council members that have respectively included developer Jim MacPhaille, former Mayor Les Fillinagme, former City Attorney Don Rafferty and current Mayor Mike Favre have gotten out of hand. It seems like yesterday…..
Today [9/7/2017], the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the Mayor and City Council of Columbus violated the Open Meetings Act when they previously met in prearranged, non-quorum size gatherings to discuss public business, intending to circumvent the Act. This is the first time the Supreme Court has ever addressed the issue of whether meetings of public officials in less than quorum numbers violate the Open Meetings Act. The Mississippi Justice Institute represented The Commercial Dispatch in the appeal.
“This is a huge win for the citizens of Mississippi and for open and accountable government,” said Mike Hurst, Director of the Mississippi Justice Institute. “People are tired of backroom deals and secret agreements by government officials that affect their lives. The Supreme Court’s opinion puts public officials and bureaucrats on notice – you cannot circumvent the law and do the people’s business behind closed doors anymore. Today’s decision is a monumental victory for transparency in government.”
At the outset, let me say that The Hancock County Alliance for Good Government has no interest in the personalities involved in the Bay St. Louis Historic Preservation Commission.
What we do have an interest in, as per our Mission Statement, is keeping the political process clean, regardless of the individuals involved in the execution of the public’s business.
On the evening of May 8, 2018, at their regular meeting, the Bay St. Louis City Council, after exiting Executive Session, acted on a item of business that was NOT on their advertised Agenda. That item of business was the dismissal of a Commissioner from the Bay St. Louis Historic Preservation Commission.
During the course of the meeting, at the second Public Forum of the evening, Ward II citizen, Teri Velardi, asked Council if they were going to take any kind of action that evening regarding the Historic Preservation Commission. She actually polled the Council one by one. All said “no.”
Council President Gene Hoffman who represents Ward II, said that there could be some issues with the Commission, but not that night. Velardi pressed them with the possibility of an Executive Session on the issue, and all either said they had no issues that night with the Commission or as Ward IV Councilman, Larry Smith said, “he had no opinion at that time on the Commission.”
Ms. Anderson broke the news she was discharged yesterday morning via Facebook:
It was getting on to 11pm when the council came out of an executive session. No video was running and only myself and three other people were present when they reconvened. They approved the minutes and then Larry Smith said he wanted to make a motion.
I’m paraphrasing, but it was something to the effect of “I make a motion that we discharge Ellis Anderson from the Historic Preservation Commission.” There was no discussion or reason given. I wasn’t asked to speak.
Gary Knoblock was out of the room, but Smith, Gene Hoffman, Buddy Zimmerman and Josh Desalvo voted yes. Doug Seal and Jeff Reed voted no.
After the meeting adjourned, I asked for some explanation. The mayor and Josh DeSalvo mentioned a possible lawsuit brought on by something I’d done on behalf of HPC. I pointed out that I’d only been carrying out an action discussed and voted on unanimously by the HPC at our last meeting. I wasn’t even chairing that meeting. I’d heard no complaints, nor had anyone contacted me to let me know there was an issue.
Paul’s rendition of the events involving last night’s City Council meeting is spot on. Councilman Reed did read such a letter. My thought on that subject comport to those of Alice and Michelle. I had another councilman bring up receiving a nasty gram or two on this subject just like when Mrs. Arnold was appointed last July with Councilman Seal bringing up such an instance. Nasty grams and school board appointments have that time honored pattern in the Bay. So much effort for so little per diem indeed.
Folks, Hancock County got to watch the Courtney Thomas library drama unfold last year, so predicting a bad spinoff show for this year’s spring season for the school board seat involving Momma was a no brainer as was predicting it’s cancellation. That said it takes both talent and dedication to alienate both the Hancock County Board of Supervisors and the Mayor of the County’s largest City.
In any event, for all the posturing we saw at last night’s meeting, the City Council members that were very critical of the Mayor’s choice of Ms. Lathrop didn’t seem to want to discuss any of the Mayor’s reasons for letting Ms. Thomas go after two years of service and replacing her with Ms. Lathrop. I reckon it was easier to play the race card than to discuss actual issues. Voting against Ms. Lathrop’s appointment were Councilmen Reed and Zimmerman with Councilman Seal attempting to have it both ways.
And lets not forget drama too, all next Tuesday at the Bay St Louis City Council meeting.
In other news roll him over and scratch his belly for that is all he desires. If you’re a schmuck that was promised a speed bump or canal dredging in exchange for your vote, welp, you folks are screwed.
Lana Noonan was kind enough to nab via Public Records Request the Tuition Assistance Grant Agreement between Ms. Thomas and the Mississippi Library Commission for everyone to see. As Lana aptly put it seeing the documents is so much better than gossip:
Interesting and important is that Ms. Thomas only drew $4,600 of the $10,000 total grant. From the Transparency Mississippi Website: