Sadly folks, City Clowncilmen were spotted. Just a thought, but using a school board appointment to fight a political consultant’s third party agenda is ill advised on so many levels, including and especially invoking a new found love for ethics in government involving a school system which has systemic issues complying with basic state mandates on the subject [Lana Noonan’s first hand account for Slabbed is here]. Whoever put that bug in Councilman Buddy Zimmerman’s ear did well in making him appear to be a Clowncilman rather than a Councilman.
Equally amusing but not quite as inane was the question about whether or not a school level administrative assistant (school secretary) had any contact with the children. My own experience is a teacher has a kid for a year, maybe two tops while the same child comes to the same office needing help at various times every year they attend school. By definition a school secretary would have more contact with the children over the long haul.
Just an observation but in all my time attending BSL Council meetings, never once did I see the previous council deny the Mayor such an appointment, even when the Mayor and Council were not otherwise getting along. That would have been true in February of this year had then Mayor Fillingame appointed Maurice Singleton to another term on the School Board.
I am told the reason Singleton was not reappointed when his term of office expired was because then Mayor Fillingame was trying to leverage Singleton into qualifying for City Council against Ward 3 Councilman Reed. It is for that reason that Slabbed presented this post, and accompanying artistic rendition of a Toolman. Last night’s short meeting was the final chapter in that particular saga, such chapter titled “disposal”. Continue reading “A couple of thoughts on last night’s recessed BSL City Council Meeting”
But the ramifications of last night’s voting are just beginning. Before I get to that though I’ll mention that as we covered the Singing River Pension meltdown, it became very clear from talking with the locals in Ocean Springs that the Connie Moran show had worn out its welcome in Ocean Springs thus last night’s election results there does not surprise.
The Johnny DuPree show also wore out its welcome in Hattiesburg – Slabbed has some good Pine Belt area political contacts but we’ve not been following Hub City politics closely beyond the financial meltdown at the Municipal School District, which voters evidently blamed (correctly I’ll add) on DuPree, who was trounced by Toby Barker. The circus that was the Plukey Bolton trial also couldn’t helped DuPree’s public image. Neither did Martaze Hammond.
Meantime down in the Bay:
Two more Bay St. Louis councilmen ousted as Favre elected mayor ~ Wes Muller
And with the threat of continued political prosecutions gone with Mayor Fillingame’s primary defeat, Poolman made it clear he is retiring from politics:
“My ultimate goal was to defeat Les Fillingame,” Harding said in a statement issued after Tuesday’s race. “With Favre’s leadership, Bay St. Louis will once again become ‘A Place Apart’” The city’s official slogan is “A Place Apart.”
Content with the situation, Harding even held a Favre campaign sign while riding a unicycle down city streets before the polls closed on Tuesday.
“I’m going back to what I do best,” the swimming pool contractor said. “It’s hot, and you need a pool.”
Now for a few ramifications as there are many. Continue reading “It’s Over – Thank Goodness…..”
With a hat tip to June 2006 post at Althouse about the song behind the post title, I was both surprised and amused at the uproar a two year old post caused when it was put back out on Twitter yesterday and then shared to Facebook by Rachael Ramsey. I thought about that old post yesterday after being told about the Hancock County GOP meeting. To get a nuance for what is happening and why people are talking, we need to visit with ol’ Blue Eyes and the comment she left yesterday:
Look at the Republican and Democratic Parties. The Candidates choose a party and are forced to give them money when they apply but the parties decide who they support. It is a sham. The head of the local Republican Party supported Les who appointed him to a position. The democrats didn’t want to support all of the candidates in their party for various petty reasons.
They sound like the Chamber of Commerce. Show your support for us and we will pick and choose who we support!
Is it possible the same forces control the apparatus of both the Hancock GOP and the Hancock Democrats? When it comes to the Bay I personally keep my mind open to that
possibility probability. The Limo pic from 2015 is one reason why.
That which we now see unfolding is the political battle being fought for the City Council. Conventional wisdom holds there is a big anti-incumbent sentiment. While it is true Councilwoman McDonald lost in the primary, Councilman Reed won in Ward 3 and is re-elected. With 4 ward seats and at large left to be decided, the stakes are high.
Here is the lineup via Cassandra Favre:
Ward One: Incumbent Doug Seal (I) and George Williams (R).
Ward Two: Carol Strohmetz (D) and Gene Hoffman (R).
Ward Three: Jeffrey Reed will not face a challenger in the general election.
Ward Four: Larry Smith (R) and Tad Black (D).
Ward Five: Incumbent Joey Boudin (D) and Buddy Zimmerman (R).
Ward Six: Incumbent Lonnie Falgout (I) and Josh DeSalvo (R).
And then in the Council at large race is a triple threat match between Mike Weems (D), Susan Vegelia (I) and Gary Knoblock (R). That race will certainly be decided by a plurality rather than majority.
The electoral battle between Hizzoner and Mike Favre was not just between them as individuals. Hizzoner wanted a friendlier City Council. Being the current Councilman at Large, Favre begged to differ. That said of the list above I see up to 3 candidates that would have been considered Hizzoner friendly that were certainly encouraged to run by Hizzoner or his political operatives. If the Favre campaign has any coat tails (I personally think it does), he will have a chance to use some of his influence in the upcoming general election on June 6.
One more thing about the Council races, the voters for both At Large and in Ward 2 have good slates of candidates to choose from while the overall candidate quality varies in the rest of the races (some way more than others). That is not to say there aren’t good candidates in those other races because there are and it will be up to the voters to separate the wheat from the chaff over the next three weeks.
To borrow an old fashioned metaphor, there has been a lot of ink spilled over the mishandling of the Equitable Sharing Grant by the Fillingame Administration, a grant violation that resulted in one dedicated audit along with a performance audit that confirmed what Slabbed has been saying since late 2013: The Fillingame Administration can’t handle money. From bringing the City to the verge of default on its water and sewer bonds to using the resulting $13 debt service surcharge added to everyone’s monthly water bill to pay general city expenses the examples of the Mayor’s financial mismanagement are legion as are the casualties, figuratively in the parade of City Clerks turned over by the City to go with one police chief. Worse are the active investigations into Payroll Fraud among other crimes alleged to have been perpetrated by city employees centered in the Police Department.
Organizationally when the Mayor exhibits a complete disregard for the financial portions of the state home rule statute the allegations of impropriety should not surprise. State Auditor Stacey Pickering termed the phenomenon a “Culture of Corruption”. Slabbed covered it in the organizationally corrupt Department of Marine Resources. To quote the late Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again” in the Bay.
Now we’ve entered election season and its time for the public to be asking questions and arming themselves with information about the candidates for office. Early this year Slabbed published the meeting notes from the December 2016 meeting between City officials and the United States Department of Justice. That document contains a wealth of information that should be important to every voter in terms of the three elected officials, two of whom are now running for Mayor that were in attendance with the other seeking reelection to the City Council. That meeting started with the DoJ making a repayment demand of about $300,000 in misspent funds and ended with the DoJ representative making a promise to take the proposal to let the resource starved Bay PD spend the money immediately on very real needs such as mold remediation inside the station house.
From a political standpoint it would have been easy for the two councilmen in attendance to let the Mayor suffer the consequences for comingling and misspending the grant beginning in 2011 by keeping quiet and having the DoJ demand $321,000 from the City while the Mayor prattled on about someone forging his electronic signature on the annual financial affidavit. They didn’t and ultimately the City now will be able to use these funds for their intended purpose – bolstering public safety. And as I wrote in a comment after that news broke that act also got the Mayor off the hook for repaying the misspent funds. There was simply no loss to the City. Continue reading “Time to move on from the DoJ Disaster”
Yesterday we highlighted the WLOX coverage of the Fillingame Administration misappropriating and then spending the DoJ Equitable Sharing Grant on expenses other than for law enforcement. Today we have a two pack from the Sea Coast Echo and the Sun Herald as Hizzoner continues to wax nonsensical. First up is Cassandra Favre’s report for the Echo:
Favre said when city officials met with DOJ representatives in Jackson, everyone in that meeting “felt like that we had to repay this money and we wouldn’t get to spend it in Bay St. Louis, that they would take the money back.”
Favre said Falgout made a presentation to DOJ representatives about the “deplorable” condition of the Bay St. Louis Police Department building.
“They seemed to buy into it,” Favre said. “They went back to Washington with that information, that we would spend the money on the building and other things for the police department if we put the money back and they allowed us to keep it. Evidently, they came back in January, when we had that meeting a week or so ago and said we would be able to keep the money here and spend it on the police department.”
Missing in Cassandra’s story are any quotes from Mayor Fillingame, who left the Council meeting shortly after the DoJ report was read into the record and approved by the Council.
Meantime Wes Muller hit the ball out of the park with his story on the same topic, which built upon some dynamite journalism he did back when this story first broke:
Bay City Council takes control of drug-forfeiture money with federal oversight ~ Wes Muller
In its investigation, the Sun Herald obtained records from the DOJ, including an affidavit signed by Mayor Les Fillingame, certifying the city had accumulated $298,108 in forfeitures as of Sept. 30, 2014. As the council had not approved any purchases with the DOJ money since 2011, the balance of the general operating account should never have dipped below that amount.
But during an August 2015 meeting, council members noticed the general operating account had a cash balance of only $80,000. The council called for an inquiry by state and federal authorities.
Continue reading “Bay St Louis DoJ Fund Disaster Continues to reverberate across the media”
Last night’s WLOX newscasts at 6 and 10 both featured the Bay St Louis DoJ Equitable Sharing fund disaster, first with the 6PM newscast showing an interview with Councilman Boudin where he disclosed the Council was filing claims on the bonds of the Mayor, the late Chief Denardo and the two City Clerks (Kolf and Smith) that had a hand in misspending the Federal grant, which was intended for use in law enforcement. Mayor Fillingame sent in a statement after the 6PM newscast that said:
“I think if it is their personal desire to pursue a claim against any employee or official against all of the professional advice that they have received, there will be great personal liability. The only losses that have been suffered by the taxpayers of Bay St. Louis has been the loss of money spent by the council pursuing claims that don’t exist. We have spent exuberant amounts of money on having this reviewed, audited and looked at legally. The council has gotten no advice from any of the auditors or agencies that have reviewed this, nor have they had any of the city’s legal counsel advise them that there is any claims against any person that has participated in the DOJ program. That money was put in the general fund account and spent by the counsel. None of the money was lost, it was spent in the process of serving the community. Before you have a claim you have to have a loss, and there has been no loss.”
Today Slabbed received an excerpt of a draft of the OSA performance review which debunks the Council going “against all the professional advice that they have received”:
In fairness to the Mayor the final report linked above omitted the repayment language but to say the Council is going against all the professional advice they have received is inaccurate as the above clearly indicates the topic of how to handle a repayment was covered in the OSA performance review. Whether a loss has occurred, a topic Slabbed covered, is a legal question that will have to be sorted out.
Meantime I wonder if anyone else giggled hearing WLOX anchor Christina Garcia use the term “mingle” instead of the proper financial term “commingle” to describe what happened with the DoJ funds in the Bay?
From DoJ Funds to a moldy police department to outsourcing the building department tonight’s agenda has a little something for everyone. Click below to get the entire 4 page meeting agenda.
Going back over 140 plus posts Slabbed has done on the financial operations of the City of
Mayberry Bay St Louis serves as a reminder that we’ve been on that particular beat since the Spring of 2014 and had been paying attention for about a year before that. In hindsight 2013 was the watershed year and that year also happened to be the last election year for City officials. To understand what is happening now is to understand what was going on back then. Also key to understanding today’s events is to understand that “A Place Apart” truly is Apart from a Home Rule Charter standpoint and therein lies the root cause of the problem. First up is the City’s Charter which is colloquially known as “Strong Mayor-Weak Council”.
There are about 300 municipalities in Mississippi and the overwhelming majority (90% or so) use the “Weak Mayor” home rule option. Bay St Louis is one of ten municipalities that use Strong Mayor: Here is the skinny from the Stennis Institute at Mississippi State:
The mayor-council form of government is essentially a “strong mayor” form of government made available by the legislature in 1973 and approved by the Department of Justice in August 1976. It is used in 10 municipalities in Mississippi: Bay St. Louis, Biloxi, Columbus, Greenwood, Gulfport, Hattiesburg, Jackson, Laurel, Meridian and Tupelo.
The Bay is the runt municipality in the strong mayor world. The proverbial strong mayor has vast power including almost complete control over the City’s workforce. Larger Cities benefit from this kind of organization because keeping the bureaucracy on point is easier when there is a clear Chief Executive. In smaller Cities with smaller work forces like “A Place Apart” it has the drawback in allowing day to day municipal operations to be dominated by a single person, in this case Hizzoner.
The City Council (as opposed to Board of Aldermen in “Weak Mayor”) only controls two things directly and those would be the budget and the annual audit. City Councils also have investigative authority under the law.
With that set up we need to circle back to the previous City Council that was in place in 2013. Not long before the election that Council began to allow the Mayor to spend the remainder of the municipal reserve fund on capital projects such as decorative street lamps for Wards 2 and 3. By the time the party primary elections took place in May 2013 the City was effectively broke despite the Mayor’s very public denials in the media. We know the City was broke because less than a year later the City’s auditors disclosed they were considering issuing a “Going Concern” opinion on the City’s financial statements. But its worse than just being broke. Continue reading “Financial Failures of 2013 still haunting A Place Apart: The Case for Outsourcing Code and Law Enforcement (Part 1)”