Playing the local media for fools here on the Coast is nothing new part 2 (Updated)

When it comes to Bay St Louis, WLOX seems to get played more than the rest folks. A compare and contrast is in order, first the WLOX story which relies on one source and that source happens to be the person responsible for the Bay St Louis – Department of Justice disaster:

Mayor Les Fillingame tells us the audit could be complete by the end of the year. Fillingame said DOJ officials indicated they want the city to remain in the drug forfeiture program, despite any potential problems.

Those problems could include not spending the drug forfeiture money the correct way or not documenting the expenditures properly.

If that is found to be the case, the city could be asked to pay back up to $300,000. That money would come from the city’s general fund. Fillingame said he hopes that is not the case.

Now let’s highlight Wes Muller’s story on this matter for the Sun Herald. Muller relied on multiple sources for his story and the difference shows:

“It was pretty simple,” Mike Favre said of the meeting. “We’ve got to put the money back. They’re going back and they’ll discuss whether we get to keep the money once we put it back or if they’re going to take it.”

He said there’s a chance the DOJ could take the $320,000 as “some sort of punishment.”

“We’re still being looked at by other agencies,” he said. “I think one of them is the DOJ’s inspector general, and from what I understand, it won’t be good if they come in. You don’t want them there.”

So not only will the City be required to make the DOJ fund whose cash were misspent by the Fillingame Administration whole it may have to repay the entire thing to the DOJ, which means the City will likely also be kicked out of the program. That sounds serious to me. Continue reading “Playing the local media for fools here on the Coast is nothing new part 2 (Updated)”

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”

Microcosm of Dysfunction: Last night’s Bay City Council meeting had a little something for everyone….

First off I did not take a poll but WLOX (Hugh Keeton if I’m not mistaken), The Sun Herald and the Sea Coast Echo were all in attendance or watching one of the various the live streams. It was a marathon meeting and I’ll start with the later portion of the meeting before I left around 8pm, two and a half hours in and the August bill from the former City Attorney:

Bay council rejects $10,000 bill from ousted city attorney ~ Wes Muller

Anyone that has witnessed the early performances of the new City Attorney understands exactly why the City Council made the change. As an added bonus, the Citizens are finally getting value for their money in legal.

Next are the Third Street fence Nazis and that dysfunction in City government mentioned in the post title. First up we must backtrack to the September 6, 2016 Council meeting and I have this via Cassandra Favre at the Sea Coast Echo:

Several residents spoke out against Anita Warner’s application for a variance to the zoning ordinance in order to construct a six-foot aluminum fence on her front yard property line fronting on Third Street and Caron Lane and extend it to the side yards. The Planning and Zoning Commission denied the recommendation that the fence be aluminum and have a 10-foot set back. Many residents said they didn’t want the fence or greenery there because it would obstruct people’s vision. Warner attended the meeting and presented the city with photographs indicating similar fencing surrounding her residence. Ellis Anderson, a representative from the Historic Preservation Commission, told the board, after Warner and others had left the meeting. Two weeks ago, they voted down her request. Her choice was to appeal to the city, which Warner did, and the council sent her request to planning and zoning. The council granted the variance with the stipulation that the six-foot fence be constructed out of aluminum made to look like wrought iron, no obstructions in the right of way and a 20-foot set back on the corner and regular setbacks on the front and side, which is 20 feet.

Bay St Louis Historical Preservation Member Ellis Anderson addressing the City Council on September 6, 2016. Photo via the City of Bay St Louis Facebook page.
Bay St Louis Historical Preservation Member Ellis Anderson addressing the City Council on September 6, 2016. Photo via the City of Bay St Louis Facebook page.

The above is factually correct but it does not paint a very rich picture of the events. The meeting of September 6, 2016 was a marathon meeting, with the zoning variance being near the top of the meeting. Ellis Anderson made her entrance into the Council chambers and spoke to the council at 10:30 at the end of the meeting with the exchange between the Council and Anderson turning a bit testy. The City live stream of Anderson’s remarks is partially contained in the last three minutes of the meeting video but it cuts off right at the point when the exchange got a bit testy. Cassandra nailed the crux of the historical commission argument above and I’ll quote it again: Continue reading “Microcosm of Dysfunction: Last night’s Bay City Council meeting had a little something for everyone….”

Bay Councilmen Question Audit Work Performed by Culumber, Harvey & Associates

I was somewhat surprised last Thursday that what was billed on the City Council workshop agenda as an update on the progress of the very late 2015 FY audit turned into a full blown audit report presentation before five City Council members with Councilpersons Boudin and McDonald not attending. To get a flavor of why members of the City Council began questioning the thoroughness of the latest City auditor, we need to refer to Geoff Belcher’s story on the report presentation for the Seacoast Echo which ran this past Saturday, Bay council questions new audit report. Belcher did a good job recapping the meeting and only left one thing out that was of interest to me but for now we need to circle that for later exploration:

“You’re – in essence – healthy,” Bobby Culumber, of Gulfport-based CPA firm Culumber, Harvey & Associates, told council members at a workshop meeting on Thursday. “You aren’t over-leveraged, you’re under-leveraged.

“The city has expanded in size from 2005 and you’re working with 10 percent less staff (than you had then) for a much larger-sized city, so you’re doing okay.”

I happened to be at the City Council meeting not long ago when the Mayor first dropped the “10% less staff” talking point and it is true. However, as Councilman Farve pointed out when Mayor Fillingame first used the phrase that the 10% less has largely been taken out of public safety. This in turn explains why the City has periodically closed the Highway 603 Fire Station including in December 2014, which was in Culumber Harvey and Associates audit year. It is also symptomatic of the larger financial and management problems that the new auditors evidently missed but it gets deeper folks as I circle back to Belcher’s story:

Culumber said that the administration’s internal controls “were definitely improving,” and that several negative findings from earlier audit reports had been cleared up.

Both Councilman-at-Large Mike Farve and Ward 6 Councilman Lonnie Falgout were puzzled by Culumber’s comments

Continue reading “Bay Councilmen Question Audit Work Performed by Culumber, Harvey & Associates”