Secretary of State Hosemann: Bay City Officials Never Notified his Office of Triple Tails Encroachment on State Green Space

In our first post on the topic of the Fillingame Administration playing Santa Claus with state owned land I asked the following question:

Does anyone reckon that Seal, Compretta, McDonald or Hizzoner came clean with Hosemann about the council granting Triple Tails permission to cantilever their building over the green space in direct violation of the lease between the City and the Secretary of State?

I also disclosed that I had contacted the Secretary of State’s Office with some questions on this matter and here one day in advance of another meeting between City Officials and Secretary Hosemann I received an answer to the inquiry, which was:

Did the City ever contact SOS and advise SOS in early 2015 that they were allowing Triple Tails to construct their building over the state owned green space? If so what was the nature of the contact and how was the questions-City requests handled by SOS?

That was an important question because there was lots of paper wasted in the form of Board minutes in 2015 documenting contact between City officials and Secretary Hosemann’s office regarding Triple Tails. The timeline constructed with the help of the Hancock Alliance for Good Government contained in the first post on this topic illustrates: Continue reading “Secretary of State Hosemann: Bay City Officials Never Notified his Office of Triple Tails Encroachment on State Green Space”

Houston we have a problem: Bay St Louis City management of public lands held in trust abysmal

This will be a multi part post.

At last Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the issue of the City leasing air space over the state owned green space came to a head and such was the major reason that Slabbed was interested in that meeting. To set things up, at the council meeting of November 8, 2016, Mayor Fillingame told the Council there was no written lease for the use of air space over the state owned Green Space at the Harbor used by Triple Tails and when that was relayed to Slabbed, we immediately spotted major potential problems. At this point we need to give a major hat tip to Lana Noonan and the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government who did some major legwork for Slabbed New Media in advance of last Tuesday’s meeting.

First up is the construction of the Bay Harbor courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers, the taking of private land for the Harbor and construction of the new Seawall under the auspices of the US Army Corp of Engineers. After the construction of the Seawall was completed property lines were redrawn and a strip of Green Space between the private property and the seawall was created. It is the City’s inability to manage this small strip of land that is the topic of this post as we explore how one private business, Triple Tails, was able to build and cantilever part of their building over the property line into the air space above the state owned green space. Mayor Fillingame and his administration’s inability to manage this green space in accordance with the lease has now caused major problems that are not easily fixed.

A timeline of events is in order: Continue reading “Houston we have a problem: Bay St Louis City management of public lands held in trust abysmal”

Bay St Louis City Council meeting recap: City Clerk Gonzales tries her hand at hoodwinking the City Council

Of the last four City Clerks only one had the kind of professionalism and personal integrity to follow financial portions of the Mississippi Code while the other three sold their professional reputations for a paycheck. Unfortunately Clerk Gonzales falls in with the majority in my opinion and it was a rather simple, somewhat innocuous looking agenda item in 3(g) that attracted my attention before last Tuesday’s meeting:

Source: Bay St Louis City Council
Source: Bay St Louis City Council

The reason the proposal to set up an Unemployment Compensation Revolving Fund within the Municipal Reserve Bank Account attracted my attention is the obvious co-mingling of dedicated funds, a major no no the council should have learned by now.

That said there were at least three City Councilmen, lead by Councilman Doug Seal, that evidently retained none of the training given them by the Office of the State Auditor’s Performance Audit division in favor of railing about there being too many bank accounts (itself a confusion between the terms “fund” and “bank account”). That said, after a member of the audience repeatedly mentioned to City Attorney Trent Favre the money needed to be separated into its own fund, were questions asked by Councilman Boudin. The council ended up telling Gonzales keep the funds separate. Continue reading “Bay St Louis City Council meeting recap: City Clerk Gonzales tries her hand at hoodwinking the City Council”

Time to Call It: The Dysfunctional City of Bay St Louis, a Municipality Apart….

I could write a treatise in real life failed local government from closely observing the workings of the Bay St Louis City government over the past three years but I’m not. I am ready to call it like I see it and can do so in a fairly short post. The overarching principle here is municipal government is dysfunctional because that is exactly the way the Mayor and City Council want it. And yes last night again saw a City Council divided on what I see as a fundamental issue: Council access to the legal services the cost of which is born by the City’s taxpayers. The vote was for more of the status quo.

To blame the financial catastrophe that has befallen the City solely on Mayor Fillingame would be misplaced. Over the past three years I’ve attended meetings where the assembled crowd knew more about operating within the four corners of the state statutes than those charged with governing. A cynical man would automatically think such public displays of ignorance from elected officials could only mean a hidden, self interest based agenda had to be present. The bottom line is don’t hold your breath waiting over the next year for things to improve as the administration is certain to ignore the directives of the City Council that it doesn’t like and the Council lacks the collective political will to force the administration to play nice, for lack of a better term. Even worse, with its current Ad Valorem levy about 33% low compared to its sister Cities here on the coast the problems can only continue. On the other hand given the fiscal mismanagement that’s occurred over the past seven years there is no way I could ever justify recommending giving the current Mayor and this City Council any more tax money to squander. Its a classic catch 22.

By my rough count there are about 11 months before the City’s voters go to the polls and it will take more than a simple house cleaning to cure the structural problems with a municipal government that does not levy enough general fund taxes to fund the delivery of basic city services across the entirety of the City. Politically, the council districts have been pitted against each other competing for the delivery of basic city services. The divide between Ward 6 residents, who are now relying on the County’s good graces to maintain the public rights of way there and Ward 2 residents that sometimes exhibit the attitude the City limits do not extend past the intersection of Washington St and US 90 was on display as recently as this past Tuesday’s regular meeting. Continue reading “Time to Call It: The Dysfunctional City of Bay St Louis, a Municipality Apart….”

Slabbed presents audit workpapers complete with after the fact spin: A case study in financial incompetence

Here is a 2013-2014 Audit workpaper that consists of a document obtained from City files:

Source: Bay St Louis City official not authorized to disclose information to the media
Source: Bay St Louis City official not authorized to disclose information to the media

Here is a related partial late payment dated a few weeks later:

Source: Bay St Louis City official not authorized to disclose information to the media
Source: Bay St Louis City official not authorized to disclose information to the media

Now for some after the fact spin courtesy of the Mississippi Municipal league, who are now helping Mayor Fillingame cover up the financial problems. Continue reading “Slabbed presents audit workpapers complete with after the fact spin: A case study in financial incompetence”

Knee jerk calls for Bay tax increases making a bad situation worse: An Editorial

Folks I’ve been very busy all week in the day job but have monitored the slow motion financial meltdown of the City of Bay St Louis, a problem that has been literally years in the making.

Last year during the election then Mayoral candidate Jeff Harding had the city’s financial problems well identified. His claims were dismissed, buried in the re-election campaign of lies told by the Mayor Les Fillingame which contended the City was financially sound, a meme Hizzoner would keep repeating until late Spring of this year when he revealed the City would default on its Water and Sewer Bonds unless they were refinanced immediately, a move that left the City almost $200,000 further in debt. By that time, per the 2013 single audit report, the City’s Water and Sewer fund accumulated deficit was well over $400,000. The City has been broke for over a year.

Before the Mayor finally came somewhat clean on the financial problems in the Water and Sewer Fund, in January Slabbed did a detailed analysis of the reckless, irresponsible budget practices that got the City to this point.  City spending on the Mayor’s friends and family program has ballooned while basic city services deteriorated.  How many City Council meetings has the inability of the Grapple Truck to run a regular schedule been discussed since April? How management can say in MD&A in the 2013 audit that the City delivers a high level of City services goes well beyond imagination to sheer fantasy. The money leakage is multifaceted as Jennifer Lenain explains for today’s Sun Herald: Continue reading “Knee jerk calls for Bay tax increases making a bad situation worse: An Editorial”