On July 10, 2015 the Mississippi Ethics Commission cited the Bay-Waveland School Board for improperly entering executive session to discuss the award of a professional service contract for architectural services on February 19, 2015. At that February meeting the School Board was advised it OK to discuss the contract award by Board Attorney Ronnie Artigues, who recently completed his 20th year providing legal services to the School District. The Ethics Commission found the discussion of a RFPs for a professional services contract did not meet any of the clear-cut criteria set forth in authority section 25-41-7(4) of the Mississippi Code.
Worth noting is the school district, in response to the ethics compliant filed by Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government, did not actually claim to meet any of the exceptions set forth in the Mississippi Code, the compliance requirements of which Mississippi School Board members receive extensive training. Unfortunately the conduct of the public’s business in secret by the School Board also fits a troubling pattern of secrecy involving conduct of the taxpayer’s business with politically connected citizens dating back to the purchase of the Bay Tech Building by the school district for use as the Central Office.
One of the School Board members that voted to enter the improper executive session, Board President Sherry Ponder, is a long time member of the school board that also holds an education doctorate. She faces at least two declared opponents this fall in the upcoming school board election in the City of Waveland including former Waveland City Councilman Mark Kidd. Another school board member, Maurice Singleton, is running for County Supervisor in District Four. Both have employment connections to the local newspaper of record, the Seacoast Echo.
More recently, the School Board has voted to explore giving the cash strapped City of Bay St Louis fifty thousand dollars for use on a municipal sidewalk project off school property. According to Hancock County Alliance for Good Government President Lana Noonan, the request for the Attorney General’s opinion submitted by Board Attorney Artigues neglected to mention the district’s funding of the project would involve municipal rights of way that did not belong to the School District, an area of the law that is well settled based upon previous Attorney General opinions finding that Mississippi school districts have no statutory authority to fund a municipal capital project.
Those wishing to see the four page preliminary report and recommendations on the matter by the Mississippi Ethics Commission, including the school district’s response, can click below to obtain the four page pdf which was released to the public earlier today Continue reading “BREAKING: Mississippi Ethics Commission finds that Bay-Waveland School Board violated open meeting law”
Slabbed can add confirmation of Desdemona’s comment (edited):
Little fun fact for those interested… Good ole Rep Eure is REALLY good friends (like county club good friends) with the famous Miller Time. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe there was some kind of spat (not sure of the details) between Baria and a few employees of Marine Resources some time back (i could be wrong, yet it could have been a rumor) Eure being on the Appropriations Committee controlling money that is managed by Marine Resources… Coincidence? I think not. So, whatever shall we do with the remaining money boys? Same game, different players my friends…
- Rep. Eure is REALLY good friends with Jamie Miller, who is also very good friends with Joe Cloyd.
- There was a confrontation between Rep Baria and DMR staffers
- Rep Eure controls the house purse strings over DMR Tideland funding.
- Rep Baria is currently on the bench in the State House as it is controlled by the GOP
- Rep Baria and Bay Waveland School Superintendent Rebecca Ladner politicized the local public school district back in January with Ladner’s participation in the Democrat response to Gov Phil’s State of the State address, an action that continues to generate local criticism all these months later.
- The City of Bay St Louis track record of financial mismanagement under the Fillingame Administration speaks for itself.
- The Fillingame Administration removed the Harbor wave break from the State Funded Harbor design plans. The pavilion at the Harbor where the bands play is super nice though.
- BWSD Superintendent Ladner was recently rewarded for her actions with a new three year contract.
If this sounds like a FUBAR type situation to you, then we’re all on the same page. And of course the people that suffer from the partisanship are the people that live here but that’s normally how it works.
In other news, Rep Baria’s replacement in the State Senate, Phillip Moran, the guy that Rep Baria tried putting under the bus in the early news coverage of Tidelandgate [Seacoast Echo story here] is on Tuesday’s City Council agenda: Continue reading “Comment bump | Tidelandgate: Never a dull moment here in the Bay”
Bay-Waveland School Board member criticizes ‘politics’ ~ Geoff Belcher
My own opinion is Board Prez Sherry Ponder has lots to learn about both the Hatch Act and the First Amendment but that is another post. Board Member Maurice Singleton works at the Seacoast Echo, Board Prez Ponder is married to the publisher by way of background.
Here are Board member Mike Bell’s full comments:
As most of you may know, our Superintendent was recently involved in the rebuttal to the Governor’s State of the State address.
I am personally upset with our Superintendents involvement in this political partisan production. Instead of the usual live rebuttal on the house floor, they employed a video production unlike any I have ever seen.
Instead of her remarks focusing on educational issues like we were led to believe they would, and which we the Board of Trustees approved, the comments ran the political spectrum of states issues, government accountability, corruption, unemployment, medical care, hospitals, crumbling infrastructure, gas prices, nuclear waste, the department of transportation and women in the workforce. Continue reading “Continued criticism of Bay-Waveland School Sup’s Partisan Political Activity”
And the legal fight brewing between the Bay Waveland School District, New Orleans developer Jim Macphaille and singer Rochelle Harper is gonna make the local TeeVee News. The subject is complex and comes with requisite cronyism and incompetence. Hopefully Giardina does not butcher it.
One naturally wonders why Hancock County beat reporter Al Showers does not have this story for WLOX but maybe he took the day off to pay his severely late water bill. More on that later today.
Joe Friday comes to mind here folks since the parties did not remain silent and Magnolia Group Attorney Ben Galloway is hot on the trail. Sending a subpoena to the Echo, whose publisher is married to the School Board President, is an interesting maneuver. I’m sensing quality muck will emerge in this case as I hope the taxpayers learn the full extent to which their local schools have been co opted by the politically connected in service to their pecuniary interests.
I was mildly surprised to see the beginnings of a response from certain members of the defense. Not as surprising is that Ben Galloway is like a pit bull and was all over that filing the next day for the Magnolia Group. Here is the answer and counterclaim of Team LNG Investments along with Team Magnolia Group’s insta-response.
Continue reading “We have new signs of life in the Bay Tech Building lawsuit”
This post has a little something for everyone from the Goatherders to Good Government peeps plus we get to do a bit of compare and contrast:
The first story is still in its original form while the second was updated. It is unclear who the 22 residents are who filed suit against the Hancock County Board of Supervisors using the services of Goatherder lawyer Henry Laird as neither story mentions them and it may well be none ultimately have any standing to sue but Harris updated her story with comments from the property owner, American Legion Post 139, which is the exact context I heard about this budding controversy originally. Specifically:
The county has leased the property from American Legion Post 139 for 25 years, but the lease expired in November, post Commander Clayton Thompson said. Board attorney Ronnie Artigues said supervisors have been in negotiations to buy the property.
The board will meet Monday to discuss renewing the lease monthly until the property can be purchased, he said.
So the county constructs bathrooms on property it did not have any legal rights to and for some inexplicable reason did not bother to renew the lease on the property, which expired last November electing to break ground instead. Ignorant does not quite do the actions of the Board of Supervisors justice in this circumstance but earlier this month Bay Waveland School Board President Sherry Ponder attempted to swear in a school board member that had not yet been been appointed to the school board by the City. Sources indicate to Slabbed Ponder lashed out at the Alliance for Good Government member that pointed this out in the school board meeting which makes one wonder exactly which local government is more clueless, the School Board or the Board of Supervisors.
OTOH not much good law gets practiced when a Goatherder is involved so this one has FUBAR potential written all over it so it is worth keeping an eye on. This is about more than just building flood mitigated bathrooms IMHO.
Let’s use some excerpts of the OIG report on DMR’s land acquisitions to illustrate why the taxpayer paid appraisals obtained by the Bay Waveland School Board as cover for their friends and family program are not worth the paper they are written on. First up we need to know what the OIG auditors did and they well explain it:
You see folks, the auditors may have had specific information that DMR Director Bill Walker and his assistant Tina Shumate were looting the program for their personal gain but going in blank they would have noticed a ton of red flags. Preliminary procedures would include comparing the real estate valuations (appraisals) against tax roll appraised values. Drilling down into the appraisal report themselves for those transactions that had large variances would include evaluating the appraiser’s work product against professional standards in the field. The OIG was kind enough to identify for us 15 requirements and best practices and summarize how each DMR transaction failed at least 4 of those 15 best practices/requirements: Continue reading “Let’s drill down on the OIG report on DMR’s friends and family program to expose fatal flaws in the appraisals obtained by the Bay Waveland School District in the Bay Tech Building Scandal”
I have a series of posts coming on the family and friends programs at both the DMR and the Bay-Waveland School District so today I begin with that preliminary US Department of the Interior Office of the Inspector General report on the problems at DMR. The twist is that I’m going to use that report to highlight the inherently flawed purchase of the Bay Tech Building by the Bay-Waveland School Board. In this series of posts I’m completely in my field of expertise as an auditor and hopefully I’ll set off a few light bulbs. First let’s do a quick review on the OIG report on the DMR family and friends program aka CIAP.
The DMR scandal broke on October 25 with reporting by the Sun Herald the Investigative Division of the Office of the State Auditor were at the Bolton Building in Biloxi going through Director Bill Walker’s office. The story that came from officialdom was that investigators were following up on a somewhat routine US DOI OIG audit of the Coastal Impact Assistance Program that found major problems in how DMR was running the program. The OIG audit, an unusual occurrence absent a major wasting of tax dollars or suspected criminal activity, was described in different terms by the folks at State Auditor’s office that claimed it was because the federal agency administering the program was changing. I do not believe that for a second personally as I firmly believe a dime was dropped. (I’ll explain more on that next week)
In any event the folks at the various OIG offices are auditors and since I’m an auditor by trade with a bit of practical experience let’s recreate some of the events through the eyes of an auditor.
First thing we have to do is figure out exactly what in the heck were looking at because the folks at OIG are not walking encyclopedias of compliance requirements related to the thousands of federal programs out there but luckily for us we have the internet so my first stop would be “The Catalog” aka the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, specifically CFDA #15.426 Coastal Impact Assistance Program and a close second would be the enabling legislation, which contains this: Continue reading “Office of Inspector General report on the DMR friends and family program lends insight into the flawed appraisals obtained in the Bay Tech Building Scandal”
Just because I’ve not written anything on the Bay Waveland School District real estate scandal does not mean things have not been happening folks. I’m not going to slice and dice this subject like some of the other matters I cover as there is no need. That said I’ve have enough accumulated for an update so here goes.
First is the local rumor mill, which is saying the FBI has been poking around. I’ve found doing Slabbed that rumors about grand jury investigations and investigations in general to be notoriously unreliable since there are so many moving parts involved, so I’d urge the buyer of such ruminations to beware.
Second is I’ve heard several tantalizing tidbits about the confirmed investigation into this by the Mississippi Real Estate Commission. After taking a peeksie at their list of disiplinary actions I wonder what it would take for a realtor to actually lose their license in this state. That said this investigation appears to be moving quickly to a resolution.
Third is what I’ll call a verifiable fact on the Bay Tech Lot next to the building as the listing with McDonald Realty has been cancelled per the MLS as of October 17, 2012. Going back through my notes on the lot from earlier interviews with Mr Bill Washburn with the Magnolia Group and Avra O’Dwyer of O’Dwyer Realty I noted Mr Washburn indicated the lot was listed at $135,000 and that soon after Slabbed broke this story he indicated he fired his realtor Mary Bunch. I duly noted the McDonald Realty sign remained on the property and the listing remained active in the MLS for weeks after Mr Washburn gave me that interview. Continue reading “Delisted: Bay Tech lot withdrawn from MLS”