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:
Dwayne Bremer was at Hancock Board of Sups meeting, which was dominated by Hancock County Library system Executive Director Courtney Thomas raising a ruckus over the proposed new inter-local agreement because it gives the County, the system’s largest financial contributor by far, a majority of the new Library Board seats. Ms. Thomas currently has a “handpicked board” per Ward 6 Bay St Louis Councilman Josh Desalvo at Tuesday’s Council meeting. That pretty much sums up the crux of the controversy with speculation running rampant that the reason Executive Director Thomas is acting out so is because she fears for her job. Meantime the clock is ticking per Dwayne’s story:
A few months ago, supervisors voted to opt out of the current agreement, saying — among other things — that the current agreement is out-dated and unfair to the county.
If a new deal is not reached by Sept. 30, the county would no longer provide funding for the library system.
The original inter-local agreement that created the library system is about 25 years old and does not include the city of Diamondhead and its library.
This gets me to Tuesday’s Council meeting. At an earlier Supervisor meeting both Councilmen Reed and Seal asked the Sups to reconsider opting out of the current library inter-local but that request to kick the can never stood a chance. The issue of Library over staffing has put a strain on the relationship between the last 2 Boards of Sups and the current library Board. It has popped in and out of the news cycle for the last three years including Thomas closing the Diamondhead branch for a brief time before the last election, an act that from outward appearances was designed to show the Sups who was Boss and that gets me to this snippet on who contributes what to the current inter-local: Continue reading “Analysis | Definitive Account: “Supervisors finalize their end of new HCLS library agreement””
It’s difficult to tell where to begin when it comes to Budget Season with our local entities. The number crunching has begun, and the departmental wish lists are presenting major financial challenges for our local officials.
Let’s begin with the City of Bay St. Louis. The seven guys on the City Council are working hard to get their budget together for the upcoming fiscal year of 2017-2018.
One little kink in the wheel that must be resolved sooner rather than later is WHERE IS THE 2016 AUDIT??????? Kind of hard to formulate a budget until you examine your auditor’s candid verdict on your books of account for the past fiscal year. The Auditor, Bobby Culumber, is MIA. They had better find him pretty soon. I think the audit was due on June 30, 2017 which would have given the City Council ample time before budget workshops to identify and confront their monetary issues and prioritize them.
Moving right along, the issues that have been discussed at the last two budget workshops are:
1. Going out for bids on the city’s insurance which is due to renew in Feb. or March of 2018.
2. On this same subject, since Council does not approve benefits for part time employees, they should also remove themselves from this benefit. Their position does not require them to spend every day at City Hall. ALL OF OUR PUBLIC ENTITIES SHOULD ELIMINATE THIS FROM THEIR BUDGETS. THINK OF THE MONEY WE WOULD SAVE.
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.