Guest Post: What made Bay Waveland School Board President Sherry Ponder change her mind about the Bay Tech Building

What made Dr. Sherry Ponder change her mind about having the taxpayers purchase the Bay Tech Building?

She states in the Oct. 11, edition of the Sea Coast Echo that the school district had been looking at this building and others since Sept. 29, 2005. But, when the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government wrote to her on Sept. 6, 2011, asking that the school board look around the community for an older building to renovate for their business office rather than build a new one for two million dollars, she was not interested in our idea.

The business manager actually told me in an open meeting that FEMA was going to build it, and for me to think of it as a “gift.”

Now enter the architects!! From September 2011 to May 2012, the school board doled out over $90,000 in tax dollars for plans for the new building.

Then Bam!!! In July of 2012, the Board came out of Executive Session and announced that they were going to buy the Bay Tech Building and renovate it for their Business Office. Now, this was never discussed in open session since Sept. 2011, when they rejected our idea.

So what or who changed the Board’s minds and when? Let’s remember that nothing has changed about this building since 2005–no renovations, no improvements. It still has to be brought up to code, and cosmetic work has to be done to make it habitable for our Superintendent, her staff, and the children who will be housed there on a daily basis.

Wait a minute!! One thing did change in the last 9 months while our board was flushing $90 grand down the toilet and holding firm to their opinion that this building was not appropriate for their needs—-the ownership changed to LNG Investments- Gerald Rigby and Lloyd Nicaud.

But why would this be attractive to the school district?? And, why did the taxpayers end up paying $255,000 more than LNG paid for it only 8 weeks prior with no renovations to justify a quarter of a million dollar increase in price on a piece of property in a county where the mil de-valued this year?? That is $31,875 a week profit for LNG. Not a bad piece of change!

The Hancock County Alliance for Good Government has been notified that we cannot have a tour of the building at this time because it is unsafe. I personally doubt the building is unsafe, but what is unsafe is having this board negotiate real estate transactions for the taxpayers.

Now, I have no problem with anyone making a profit, but let’s remember this is a small school district that is trying to recover from the worst natural disaster in our nation’s history.

Kind of reminds me of buzzards on road kill.

I’ll just leave you with the explanation from Mary Bunch (Lloyd Nicaud’s mother) “in the Sea Coast Echo of Sept. 29—–“these guys bought that building–they re-sold that building. That’s what they do.” Really??!!

Lana Noonan, Chairman
Hancock County Alliance for Good Government

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Links to Slabbed’s previous coverage of this matter:

And upon the hill they planted their flag…….

Trustees approve Bay Tech renovation ~ The Sea Coast Echo

As the shifting story continues to evolve:

Both Bunch and the LNG partners have said their actions were entirely proper and legal and that the so-called “controversy” has been manufactured; and Ronnie Artigues, attorney for the BWSD, said the district was happy because it purchased the property for well under its appraised and assessed values.

Slabbed has learned The Magnolia Group has begun the formalities of commencing civil litigation in this matter.  Slabbed has also learned the Mississippi Real Estate Commission has also opened a formal investigation based upon multiple complaints they have received on this specious, taxpayer funded transaction.

Slabbed will be covering this debacle and related wasting of taxpayer money by the Bay Waveland School Board as events unfold. Stay tuned.

Links to Slabbed’s previous coverage of this matter:

School District records suggest collusion in Bay Waveland’s School District’s purchase of Bay Tech Building

Bunch described the growing controversy as unnecessary and unfounded “havoc and chaos.”

“The people that bought the building (LNG) are all very good human beings and good citizens of Hancock County. These are businessmen and what they did – they didn’t go to the school board, from what I understand, the school board came to them. … These allegations are baseless. These guys bought that building. They re-sold that building. That’s what they do.

I was reminded of the Miranda warning when I read the Sea Coast Echo’s second try at poorly telling the stinky story of the Bay Waveland School District’s purchase of the Bay Tech Building from 3 politically connected local business people because as this drama plays out, I guarantee certain people will wish they had kept mouths shut as we visit next with local businessman Gerald Rigby and get his take on this unfolding scandal:

LNG President Jerry Rigby said Friday that any allegations of wrong-doing are completely false. Rigby said it may have been a short while between the time LNG closed on the property and then sold it to the school board, but his company had actually been working on a couple of different development deals at the Bay Tech site since at least last December.

“We contacted (Magnolia Group) through the realtor. … We proceeded with a normal real estate acquisition. We offered a number. They came back with a counter offer. They countered our counter and they accepted (our next offer) very quickly. … I don’t think we had any power to compel them to accept the offer.”

Slabbed has obtained certain documents with the help of the local Alliance for Good Government, a citizens group the Sea Coast Echo regularly paints as loons in their beat reporting on the school district. Worth noting is the editor of the Echo, Randy Ponder is married to School Board Prez Sherry Ponder, thus the lack of integrity in said beat reporting but that subject is best fleshed out in a dedicated post.

What documents did I obtain? For purposes of this post I’m going to zero in on three: One page from the deed related to the sale of the building by LNG to School Board, one of the two appraisal reports that were ordered by the School District and the following letter from the AFGG to School Board Prez Sherry Ponder dated September 6, 2011: Continue reading “School District records suggest collusion in Bay Waveland’s School District’s purchase of Bay Tech Building”

Sea Coast Echo story on Bay Waveland Schools buying Bay Tech building raises additional questions (UPDATED)

Earlier today I linked the Sea Coast Echo report on the Bay Waveland School Board’s purchase of the Bay Tech Building encouraging our readers to read it as reporter Geoff Belcher attempted to frame the story as a business spat between realtors.  I beg to differ and as I examined his story critically, especially the quotes from Mary Bunch, Avra O’Dwyer and School Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues, I ended up with more questions than answers.  Luckily for everyone I did some interviewing of my own so maybe I can answer some of these questions.

Belcher compartmentalizes the topic into “two major components to the controversy” but he missed a few components in the spin cycle so we need to first examine what we know and compare that to the quotes he snagged and the assertions he made.  Since I bring my day job skills to the blogging scene I’ll warn my new readers this won’t read like a newspaper guy wrote this story but I bet I can make everything understandable thus we begin with the disclosure of the people I interviewed for this post: Bill Washburn, former owner of the Bay Tech Building via his company Magnolia Group LLC, Lana Noonan with the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government, and Ms Avra O’Dwyer, owner of O’Dwyer Realty.  Before I get to their remarks I’d like to make a couple of observations so let’s quote from the end of the story, specifically the attributed remarks of School Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues with Butler Snow:

Artigues likened the process to the district’s recent purchase of two properties near Waveland Elementary to make room for road expansion there.

“We had to offer them the appraised value,” he said. “It’s no different, it doesn’t matter who the owner is.”

Mississippi is considered a non-disclosure state. Property owners are not required to reveal what theythemselves paid for the property to a prospective new buyer.

The $325,000 figure did not become public until Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a nation-wide real estate listing, added it to the Bay Tech description page.

“We got it for the lowest possible number based on the appraisal,” Artigues said, adding that the district was quite pleased with the price, at the time of the sale.

The assertion a govermnet has to offer “appraised value” in a privately negotiated real estate transaction is absurd. I’m not sure of the context of the reporters statement regarding the late date the transaction was entered into the MLS or how it fits. For instance is the reporter trying to hint at the fact the last sale of the building was not considered in the appraisal report the school district paid for after the August School Board meeting?  It simply isn’t clear. Continue reading “Sea Coast Echo story on Bay Waveland Schools buying Bay Tech building raises additional questions (UPDATED)

How the New Media rolls: Watch and learn boys and girls.

Rule number 1 here at Slabbed New Media is “attribute and source”. Rule #2 here at Slabbed New Media is “See rule #1”. I mention this because there is a sleazy underbelly to this biz where for profit entities ignore copy write. Slabbed has a creative commons license that is plainly displayed on the right sidebar. Anyone can freely use the work from this blog provided they attribute the source and agree to redistribute the work in a share and share alike manner. It is a very low bar indeed.

I mention this because yesterday evening the Sea Coast Echo put the following story up on their website regarding the unfolding scandal at the Bay Waveland School Board involving the purchase of the old Bay Tech building. I do not see Slabbed New Media attributed anywhere in that story. This is not the first time the Echo has ripped off Slabbed.

That said Geoff Belcher’s piece is worth the read because he nabbed quotes from Mary Bunch, Avra O’Dwyer and School Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues.  He frames the story as a controversy between realtors, which could not be farther from the truth as I’ve heard from the local Hancock County Alliance for Good Government and those folks are hopping mad.  I thought it was strange he did not have any quotes from the victim, Mr Bill Washburn, who has indicated to Slabbed he has retained counsel in this matter.  Finally I detect a wee bit of ass covering at the Echo, which misreported the seller originally despite the fact it was a public record both at the courthouse and at the school district.  Worth noting is the Echo’s major digital banner advertiser appears to be John McDonald Realty and School Board President Sherry Ponder is married to the editor of the Echo, who evidently didn’t run a spell check on the story before publishing it.

Worth remembering is the following article which Jr. linked a few months ago on Slabbed about a small town in North Carolina with an established, sold out local paper and an upstart that actually reported accurate news.  The internet killed the gatekeeper years ago but in some corners of small town America that message has not yet sunk in.  I’m going to let the documents tell this story because the devil is in the details as we’ll continue to follow the money.

Bay Waveland School Board Minutes add color to the purchase of the old Bay Tech building

Last week’s post on the questions raised by real estate deeds and other public records surrounding the FEMA funded purchase of the old Bay Tech Building on Second Street from 3 politically connected local business people unfortunately contained more questions than answers.  Today I think we can answer those questions and peg the exact date the flip to the School District occured but first let’s visit with that first post Court documents raise questions about Bay-Waveland School District’s purchase of the old Bay Tech Building so everyone is on the same page:

You see folks the Bay Tech building flooded from Katrina and to my knowledge was never fixed.  To buy it meant planning had to be done so surely we have other clues to help us hone in on a date.  The June minutes have nothing of interest to note but the May 14, 2012  Board minutes contained an interesting blurb paying local architects for design work on a new administration building (Page 13).  Given the payment application number and amount I imagine this was for a brand new building, not Bay Tech but for now I’ll leave that as an open question.

The documentary records from the MLS and the Deed indicate the listing agent sold the property to herself, son and her son’s business partner for $325,000 on June 8, 2012.  Additionally press reports indicate the local school district bought the building less than 2 months later for $580,000.  School Board minutes indicate negotiations began after the July 16, 2012.

I called Mr Bill Washburn, owner of Magnolia Group for comment and he confirmed the sale, sales price and listing realtor.

Implied but not said in that first post was the selling agent, Ms Mary Bunch did not notify her client she, along with her son and her son’s business partner were the purchasers of the property.  I would like to clear that up by stating Mr Washburn tells Slabbed he was not notified of the clear ethical conflict inherent to the transaction. Continue reading “Bay Waveland School Board Minutes add color to the purchase of the old Bay Tech building”

Court documents raise questions about Bay-Waveland School District’s purchase of the old Bay Tech Building

Last month the Seacoast Echo reported the Bay-Waveland School District had purchased the Old Bay Tech building on Second Street in Old Town Bay St Louis to house the district’s administrative offices and alternative school. This purchase would mark the beginning of the final phase of school district’s recovery from Hurricane Katrina and breathe new life in a building that has sat empty since the storm.

In a way that piece also encapsulates the state of the school district in 2012, which has found itself at odds with local good government activists over several issues that I will not go into on this post.  That said today the FEMA funded transaction the district executed to purchase the Bay Tech building will be examined in detail because the Seacoast Echo got it wrong, which is strange considering the editor of the paper is married to the school board president. To kick-start things let’s visit with that story I linked above:

The Bay St. Louis-Waveland School District has purchased the old Bay Tech building in Bay St. Louis, hoping to turn it into a new district office and alternative school.

The building and 1.6 acres of land located at 200 N. Second Street were purchased for $580,000. According to county tax records, the previous owner was Magnolia Group LLC of Shorewood, Ill.

Now when I say the Echo got it wrong I do not mean the reporting was lazy, as I think the reporter faithfully reported everything that was said in the meeting. We need to examine another snippet though, before Slabbed tells the in-depth story:

Project Coordinator Brad Barlow said buying the building made sense for the district.

“We’ve explored many routes and found that this was a cost-effective way,” he said.

Although the project has been delayed over other projects, Ladner said, the district wanted to get the schools rebuilt first.

Funding will come from FEMA proceeds and district funds.

I’ll admit I saw this piece last month and came away thinking $580K for a building and 1.6 acres of land in old town was a bargain. That is until I learned that it was sold on June 7, 2012 by the Magnolia Group to a LLC owned by 3 local business people for $325,000, that public records show owned the property around a month before flipping it to the school district for a $255,000 profit. Let’s establish that via the Multiple Listing Service aka the MLS.  I have made certain redactions to protect certain individuals that I do not believe were involved in the transaction: Continue reading “Court documents raise questions about Bay-Waveland School District’s purchase of the old Bay Tech Building”