Come out and meet Wendy while the meetin’s good…

In fact according to my calculations the event began 38 minutes ago. Cuz’s has great seafood for those of you not from South Mississippi who read Slabbed that haven’t yet been to the new location at Main and Beach Blvd.

Ad Pic Courtesy of a reader
Ad Pic Courtesy of a reader

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”

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….”

Tonight’s Bay Council meeting should be a marathon session

And that was before Councilwoman Wendy McDonald was critically injured after being hit by a car. Eyewitness accounts indicated Ms. McDonald was bleeding from her ear after impact which is not a good sign. She is fighting for her life over at Ochsners. A couple of links:

UPDATE: Bay Councilwoman Wendy McDonald reportedly undergoing emergency surgery after being struck by car

Bay councilwoman hit by vehicle transported to New Orleans hospital

Tonight’s meeting agenda indicates HB1523 is again going to surface as a topic of conversation. Best I can tell the Council is divided about three ways on this one and without Councilwoman McDonald I seriously doubt we see any official action on it.

And then there is the Hizzoner factor. Stay tuned.

Lunch with the auditor a bad thing?

audit
1. A formal examination, correction, and official endorsing of financial accounts; especially, those of a business, undertaken annually by an accountant.
2. A systematic check or assessment; especially, of the efficiency or effectiveness of an organization or a process, typically carried out by an independent assessor.
3. In computer programming: a process used to detect accidental input or processing errors as well as fraud, often using test data and special-purpose software.
4. Another aspect of computer programming in which a set of procedures are established to ensure the quality and integrity of a data base and to carry out such a process or procedure.
5. Etymology: from Latin auditus, “a hearing”; past participle of audire, “to hear”.

It now stands for the official examination of business accounts, which were originally oral or spoken. The verb is from about 1557.

OK folks, now that I let y’all in on one of the secret questions you must successfully answer to learn the secret handshake of becoming an auditor, namely that to verb “audit” and the term “auditor” are derived from the Latin word for “listening” and “hearing” let’s examine an alternative world, where auditors must work in silence and are not allowed to ask questions:

Fillingame disagreed with Atkinson’s report in a telephone interview shortly after Thursday’s meeting.

“I read the report and was shocked at the amount of inaccuracies and the amount of very flawed details within the report,” Fillingame said. “It was obvious that a lot of the facts that were supposedly presented were taken from conversations and not drawn from the documents. Really, some of the more serious (accusations), and I’m very concerned about that.”
Fillingame said any information the council required has always been available at city hall, and any problems were due to a lack of manpower to duplicate and deliver the information.

I can understand Hizzoner’s confusion because he was not in attendance when Sam Atkinson, Director of the Office of the State Auditor’s Performance Audit Division, presented her office’s report on the causes of the many well documented problems contained in the FYE 9-30-2014 municipal audit report performed by the firm Wright, Ward, Hatten and Guel.  In its simplest terms the performance audit is a report on an audit report.

To the extent the Performance Audit Division owes its origins to what I’ll term an auditing fad dating from the 1990s it would follow it is not the same type of engagement as an audit in accordance with GAAS and GAGAS.  This explains why Ms. Atkinson is well qualified to run the Performance Audit Division because she is a Mississippi Governmental Finance expert rather than a CPA although her division has several on staff.  Hizzoner and the City’s finance department employees could certainly have benefited from training Atkinson gives at events like MML and that is really what the performance audit process is about, improving performance by pinpointing the root causes of the problems so corrective action can be taken. Continue reading “Lunch with the auditor a bad thing?”

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”

Trolley lolley lolley, fa la la la……

Bay St. Louis council calls for federal probe into $186,000 in police-forfeiture money ~ Wes Muller

Playing games with pooled bank accounts is nothing new or particularily innovative on the book cooking front.  What gets me is the fact that the same pot of money is apparently spent over and over and over again.  I’ll term it Hocus Pocus accounting and it is fairly easy to see through.

Speaking of Hocus Pocus accounting in the Bay we have a Hocus Pocus budgeting as well as.  You see folks in Mississippi by law Municipalities must prepare their budget on the cash basis with one exception. What this means is revenue per the budget is recognized when actually received rather than when earned. This means with the exception of previous fiscal year claims paid within 30 days after September 30 that expenses are recognized when paid rather than when incurred. Since we’re talking governmental accounting this also means that capital expenses are shown as an expense when paid and both loan principal and interest are expensed when paid.  Adjusting for claims paid 30 days after year end this also means the following equation is true. [Section 21-35-23, Miss. Code Ann. (1972)]

Beginning Cash in fund + budgeted revenues – budgeted expenses = Ending Cash in fund

Now I would encourage everyone to visit the City’s website and download the original and amended budgets for 2014-2015. Look hard for the equation I highlighted above but you can also take it from me that you won’t find it because the City did not use the correct format for its budget. Correct format??? What the heck is Handshoe talking about? I’m talking about the Mississippi Audit and Accounting Guide for Municipalities promulgated by the Mississippi State Auditor’s office, which by law has the authority to dictate the form of the budget. [Sections 21-35-7 and 21-35-29, Miss. Code Ann. (1972)] The following is what I am talking about being missing from the Bay Budget: Continue reading “Trolley lolley lolley, fa la la la……”

Slabbed Solves Bay St Louis Dumpstergate with one photo

And Saturday night on the way to the ball the gang discussed:

  1. Taxpayer subsidized trash service for a few Old Town Merchants.
  2. Setting up a payment plan for the multitude of Chamber of Commerce members that do business with the City who have not been paid in months.
  3. Let them eat cake.

Photo is below the jump. Continue reading “Slabbed Solves Bay St Louis Dumpstergate with one photo”

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”