A few thoughts on the Hancock Alliance for Good Government Municipal Candidate Forum

For those following along last night Slabbed put out two pictures but little else live as I was on the media panel that asked the questions.

After the forum an audience member asked where the panel got its questions which I thought was odd, my instant answer pointing to my brain was “from here”. Turned out he was upset because he thought we were picking on a candidate he supports. The operative term here is more colloquially known as a “closed mind”.

Wes Muller from the Sun Herald and Brad Kessie from WLOX rounded out the panel and we didn’t toss out any softies to either the Mayoral or the council candidates for office. Speaking for myself I asked questions that would help the candidates differentiate themselves, from the allocation of scarce tax dollars in the city budget to whether or not tax increases were on the table to deal with the current revenue challenged times derived mainly from declining gaming revenue. There was no such thing as a wrong answer to these questions and overall the candidates for office did a good job responding to the questions, including Hizzoner.

The panel also asked questions designed to find out if the Candidates knew what they were getting into in terms of the office they were seeking. Those questions also got very good responses and the candidates again differentiated themselves. Without going into the he said, she said specifics I’ll add WQRZ was there last night to record the event and it will be streamed on Saturday. I highly encourage those of you that did not attend last night to listen in Saturday.

Several people in attendance commented to me on what was evidently a pretty sharp contrast between the Republican-Democrat-NAACP Forum the night before which was promoted by a new, proxy registered, anonymous website BSL Beyond Politics and last night’s event, which focused heavily on financial questions. Wes Muller was at both and his story on the Republican-Democrat-NAACP Forum tells the tale: Continue reading “A few thoughts on the Hancock Alliance for Good Government Municipal Candidate Forum”

Unfinished Business: “Elephants never forget”

Slabbed is the current beneficiary of some good old fashioned elbow grease that is being applied to certain issues from the past. Those various tidbits from the past should make for a fun election season.

One fact that has been established with the help of Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government is the Administration was capable of running legal advertisements as she found an instance where the Water and Sewer Refunding Bonds were advertised by then City Clerk David Kolf back in 2014. Tuesday night Mayor Fillingame took the microphone to dispute the State Auditor’s Office Performance Review which first documented his refusal to discharge the duties of his office while instead blaming the City Council clerk for his Administration’s ineptitude in failing to publish the Zoning Ordnance as required by state law. Such a performance by Hizzoner can only mean the silly season is on in a big way.

So to set up tomorrow’s post what we need to do is circle back in time to the release of the FY 2014 audit with its multitude of major internal control and compliance findings. I put that link in the preceding sentence out on Twitter early this week and it garnered a good reader response. Those that remember those particular times in 2015 understand that part of Hizzoner defending his administration against terrible audit results included him saying the audit findings were bogus including one that involved the City’s property insurance lapsing during Hurricane Season. Slabbed was Johnny on the Spot to debunk the dishonorable Hizzoner’s media talking points and the rest is history…..well not quite as it turned out and that is fodder for the next post. Stay tuned.

Leslie’s law: Senator Harkins helps clean up Good Ol’ Boy politics in “Strong Mayor” towns

And why are we calling HB 51 Leslie’s law? Mainly because it cleaned up a questionable AG’s opinion that involved the City of Bay St Louis and its unqualified perpetually interim crony Chief Building Inspector Charles Oliver. Kingfish at Jackson Jambalaya has been all over this issue for two years now and his post yesterday on the topic is a must read for everyone in the Bay. The citizens in “Strong Mayor” Chartered towns throughout Mississippi owe Senator Harkins an Atta Boy for seeing this good government measure through the legislature to the Governor’s desk. Here is a snippet from Kingfish’s post:

The first challenge to this law took place in Bay St. Louis, where good ole boy politics reigns supreme. The Mayor fired the building inspector seven years ago and appointed a close friend who was not qualified to the job on an interim basis. He has never been confirmed by the city council and is not a certified building inspector. Such things mean nothing to Mayor Fillingame. Interim means eternal as far as he is concerned. The city council challenged his employment after the law became effective on July 1, 2016. However, Mayor Fillingame and city attorney Donald Rafferty went running to Jim Hood for some cover and he gave it to them. Earlier post with copy of opinion.

I’d posit this is also very bad news for Mayor Fillingame’s latest scheme involving the Bay Waveland School Board as he has failed to make an appointment to fill Maurice Singleton’s seat on the Board of Trustees. Singleton’s term expired in February and Fillingame has steadfastly refused to make a school board appointment to fill the seat, instead arguing that Singleton, who appears to be cooperative in the Mayor’s scheme, is now a 180 day interim appointment. With the State Auditor’s office now empowered to enforce financial penalties associated with this kind of abuse, it will be interesting to see if Singleton continues his role as the Mayor’s lap dog. Stay tuned.

Senior Fillingame Administration Official “feeling delighted” about potential cancellation of Hancock Library millage

Think about the kind of city you want and vote for the person who will lead you there. ~ Liz Zimmerman

I always thought the difference between living in a City or in the country boiled down to a quality of life calculus. For City dwellers, having a local library is a generally part of the quality of life equation.

Screenshot_20170326-122633

Maybe we’re math challenged but removal of the County millage would reduce the average property tax bill no where near $60 per that breakdown nor can we see how the small library millage added to Bay St Louis taxes would bump the total to $60. In any event the name of the local tax collector was invoked: Continue reading “Senior Fillingame Administration Official “feeling delighted” about potential cancellation of Hancock Library millage”

Another Stunning Display of Ineptitude by the Fillingame Administration……..

Tuesday night’s City Council meeting was a doozie and that does not count this:

Lawyer’s discovery stuns Bay St. Louis officials ~ Wes Muller

Bay St. Louis attorney Stephen Benvenutti told the council the city’s comprehensive zoning ordinance was never published, as required by law, when it was adopted by the previous City Council in 2010.

Municipalities are legally required to publish zoning change proposals and other significant measures in the municipality’s local newspaper within 30 days of a council’s vote. The newspaper of record for municipalities in Hancock County is the Sea Coast Echo.

The display of ineptitude inherent to not following simple, statutorily mandated tasks such as keeping a codified book of municipal ordinances and publishing them after Council adoption by Mayor Fillingame and his appointees is stunning, though not surprising. The fact is this problem was identified in 2015 by the FY 2014 auditors at Wright Ward Hatten and Guel. Here is what the state auditor wrote in their Performance Review of that audit:

You’re – in essence – healthy,” Bobby Culumber, of Gulfport-based CPA firm Culumber, Harvey & Associates, told council members at a workshop meeting on Thursday.

Ooops sorry folks wrong auditor. Here is what the State Auditor Performance Review said about Fillingame Administration problems handling ordinances:

PerRevBSL_Ord

It’s clear from the State Auditor’s language Mayor Fillingame was Continue reading “Another Stunning Display of Ineptitude by the Fillingame Administration……..”

Time to move on from the DoJ Disaster

To borrow an old fashioned metaphor, there has been a lot of ink spilled over the mishandling of the Equitable Sharing Grant by the Fillingame Administration, a grant violation that resulted in one dedicated audit along with a performance audit that confirmed what Slabbed has been saying since late 2013: The Fillingame Administration can’t handle money. From bringing the City to the verge of default on its water and sewer bonds to using the resulting $13 debt service surcharge added to everyone’s monthly water bill to pay general city expenses the examples of the Mayor’s financial mismanagement are legion as are the casualties, figuratively in the parade of City Clerks turned over by the City to go with one police chief. Worse are the active investigations into Payroll Fraud among other crimes alleged to have been perpetrated by city employees centered in the Police Department.

Organizationally when the Mayor exhibits a complete disregard for the financial portions of the state home rule statute the allegations of impropriety should not surprise. State Auditor Stacey Pickering termed the phenomenon a “Culture of Corruption”. Slabbed covered it in the organizationally corrupt Department of Marine Resources. To quote the late Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again” in the Bay.

Now we’ve entered election season and its time for the public to be asking questions and arming themselves with information about the candidates for office. Early this year Slabbed published the meeting notes from the December 2016 meeting between City officials and the United States Department of Justice. That document contains a wealth of information that should be important to every voter in terms of the three elected officials, two of whom are now running for Mayor that were in attendance with the other seeking reelection to the City Council. That meeting started with the DoJ making a repayment demand of about $300,000 in misspent funds and ended with the DoJ representative making a promise to take the proposal to let the resource starved Bay PD spend the money immediately on very real needs such as mold remediation inside the station house.

From a political standpoint it would have been easy for the two councilmen in attendance to let the Mayor suffer the consequences for comingling and misspending the grant beginning in 2011 by keeping quiet and having the DoJ demand $321,000 from the City while the Mayor prattled on about someone forging his electronic signature on the annual financial affidavit. They didn’t and ultimately the City now will be able to use these funds for their intended purpose – bolstering public safety. And as I wrote in a comment after that news broke that act also got the Mayor off the hook for repaying the misspent funds. There was simply no loss to the City. Continue reading “Time to move on from the DoJ Disaster”

Reader links: What y’all are talking about

RFP sent in the following interview Ryan Vlastelica of Marketwatch did with Bernie Madoff from prison that is an interesting read. Madoff is not only a rock star in the prison world he has also done well for himself (in relative terms) by being himself:

At one point, he cornered the hot chocolate market. He bought up every package of Swiss Miss from the commissary and sold it for a profit in the prison yard. He monopolized hot chocolate! He made it so that, if you wanted any, you had to go through Bernie.

Moving right along the Tweet Slabbed put out from Al.com about the new District Attorney being indicted just before he was to take office:

New Jefferson County District Attorney indicted for perjury; will face suspension ~ Kent Faulk

As usual trouble naturally follows when the little head does all the thinking:

Then at the Sept. 26 trial at which Henderson allegedly perjured himself, the issue of whether there was a romantic relationship between Henderson and the mother, Ms. Akl, surfaced.

On Sept. 28, the day after the trial ended, the mother’s attorney, Daniel Chambers, asked to withdraw from the case. Chamber’s motion included information about evidence that the “defendant (mother) and the former Guardian Ad Litem (Henderson) have been in a romantic relationship.”

So what kind of woman could cause the newly elected DA to take leave (allegedly) of his senses? Social media gives us a few tantalizing clues first up being this Youtube Channel. The connection is the product of a Facebook like of this photo from the DA elect’s Facebook page which leads to this Facebook page. Run the names through the ol’ search engine you get the YouTube channel linked above and it is clear the ladies knows their way around the Chakira and then some. To be clear none of this is conclusive but Ms. Akl’s lawyer withdrawing looks very bad. Continue reading “Reader links: What y’all are talking about”

Hizzoner appears on WLOX This Week, waxes nonsensical

I almost spit my coffee when Hizzoner explained the Equitable Sharing Funds fiasco:

For the record Dave, I think the folks in Diamondhead are very happy being a “fake” city as the citizens there can sleep at night knowing dedicated public safety funds are spent on public safety instead of decorative street lamps, salaries for the Mayor’s daughter or a Trolley that no one used. As an added bonus the Fake City of Diamondhead’s public works department has a smart pig for its workers to use while the “real” city in the Bay neither has much in the way of a staffed public works department or a smart pig. Just saying…..

But you folks didn’t come here today to see a poor quality version of yesterday’s Hizzoner’s WLOX Interview or to see me rag on Dave no siree. You folks came here today because Slabbed always seems to nab some sort of super-secret City document, such as the notes from last month’s meeting with the Department of Justice which we did indeed procure for your reading enjoyment. As a bonus, Chief Freeman can catch up on the goings on in the City. Click the pic below to obtain the three page PDF: Continue reading “Hizzoner appears on WLOX This Week, waxes nonsensical”

Probable Cause…….

Low hanging fruit courtesy of Hizzoner without self control:

Bay Council member alleges misuse of funds ~ Stacey Cato

In one instance which councilmen say bolster their allegations, records obtained by the Seacoast Echo show a supporting clerical administrative position within the city of Bay St. Louis has recently been eliminated from the city’s current annual budget.

According to city records, the administrative position was once within the city’s fire station but was removed from the fire department’s payroll at budget time and added to the police department. It has since been eliminated in its entirety by city council members, in a 5-0 vote, from both department’s budgets, but the unnamed employee still apparently works for the city.

“It’s one story after another,” Ward 5 Councilman Joey Boudin said. “It just keeps changing. We just can’t keep dealing with it!”

Bay employee never worked at police station but still got paid ~ Wes Muller

Councilman Joey Boudin said it’s illegal for the city to pay an employee outside the confines of the city’s budget.

“Just because he’s breaking the law doesn’t mean we have to,” Boudin said. “If he needed to change it, he should have brought it to our attention immediately.”

Hows about a comment bump from Duped this afternoon at 2:10PM: Continue reading “Probable Cause…….”

Bay City Councilmen Favre and Falgout have issued statements regarding the future of the Bay PD

And folks in these statements is some new information regarding the criminal investigations into the operations of the Bay St Louis PD. First up from Outgoing Council President Falgout:

Recently your City Council has been researching and evaluating operations of City Departments for cost cutting measures and better services.

Please allow me to enter my thoughts, opinion plus some information as your Councilman. PLEASE NOTE that as Council President there is INFORMATION I CANNOT share. So please give me a little leeway.

1. Who, When, Why, Where, and How did this $320,000 DOJ money go missing? This deficit dates back to 2011. It is not the City’s money. It belongs to the men and women of Bay St Louis PD who put their life on the line EVERYDAY! It was NOT disclosed to ANY Council memmber until Mike Farve, Joey Boudin. and myself was called to a private meeting by Chief Mike Denardo after hours to disclose his notes and findings. We then called for a review and investigation.
2. Since Mike Denardo’s suicide, there has been continuing investigations by NUMEROUS Federal, State and Local enforcement agencies. They are all still active as of this email.
a. BSL expended approx. $4,000 immediately to “secure evidence” by building a secure “evidence room” under the guidance of Sheriff’s Office and the MBI because of “lack of controls” over evidence.
b. City Attorney, Mike Favre, Mayor and myself, with Detectives, were made aware with evidence the day BEFORE Mike Denardo’s death of criminal allegations. Detectives requested evidence and a complete Police Department inventory of weapons directly of Mayor Fillingame. IT was not then available. We had to wait about one hour until one was brought to us to cross reference evidence. Very concerning to the Detectives and us since State law plus Police protocol requires it to be update to date and immediately available.
3. Info presented at that meeting of “gun pawning.”
4. Info also given regarding “payroll time sheets” from the police department that were delivered to the Administration to pay payroll.
5. Notes and other information was intentionally “left behind” by Mike Denardo for the detectives conducting the investigation.
6. I have personally met with face to face and by other means with some BSL officers, at their request, about numerous concerns they have now and still have.
7. There are current Police brutality cases.
8. Officer accused in one of the above cases has an attorney and is contemplating legal action against BSL.

Other info being “looked at” and or being investigated that I’m not allowed to state.

The above is information of facts, not assumptions, scare tactics or political rhetoric but based on info from meetings that I attended as Council President and or Vice-President over the last approximately 14 months.

Clearing up of misinformation that’s being talked about or being “spread” erronously:
1. BSL PD is not being abolished, eliminated or “taken over” and being brought “down to Sheriff’s Office.”
a. You will not notice any changes in uniforms, cars, building, where you call for a car (228-255-9191), 911 and or picking up copies.
b. Court will still be held at Council Chambers. Fines will still be collected and kept by BSL.
c. BSL Police Cars will always be in BSL patroling unless a tragedy must bring us all together.
d. The lower pay adjustment from BSL to Hancock County will be supplemented by a stipend to each officer presently employed by BSL and retained by Sheriff’s Office. Health insurance, pension, etc. will not be lost but absorbed thru Hancock County’s payroll system.
e. BSL Police Officers, Detectives and HIDTA Drug agents will have more cooperation, guidance, training and technology presently used by Sheriff’s Office and City of Diamondhead which is under Contract presently with Sheriff’s Office.
d. We have in the past experienced “patrol shortages” in Ward 6 as some of you have notated to me and was verified by me. This proposed contract will allow Sheriff’s Office to move cars in to assist BSL cars that may be tied up in other matters. This includes their Detective Division assisting us.
2. The reductions you’re hearing about will come from streamlining administrative staff with Sheriff’s Office administrative staff, staffing patrols as needed per areas and cutting overhead.
3. I assure each and everyone of you that I and this Council will never reduce “boots on the ground” or sacrifice public safety to save a nickel! We will and can add to staff as warranted by needs. The Council, Mayor and public will be briefed by Sheriff major on concerns that he may have go forward and he will listen and take our input on public safety matters in Bay St Louis.
4. Officers will still be able to receive and be compensation for off-duty activities.
5. BSL will have a Sheriff appointed Captain that will serve as required as BSL Police Chief.
6. BSL will be under the direction of our elected Sheriff Ricky Adam, Under Sheriff Don Bass and with cooperation of his entire staff as we may require.
7. We WILL NOT be billed any more than our monthly Contract when Sheriff’s Office “assist’s us” with “additional enforcement help” per our current interlocal mutual assistance agreements.

Finally I’d like to thank Sheriff Adam for being there for us in a very tragic time when we needed him.

Councilman Favre: Continue reading “Bay City Councilmen Favre and Falgout have issued statements regarding the future of the Bay PD”