Bay City Council meeting agenda released

And it is headlined by Becky Hammond, CPA. Ms. Hammond will be presenting the DoJ report to the Council.

And I have this from Facebook:

Tomorrow evening at 5:30 pm the Bay St. Louis City Council will hold their regular meeting at the Council Chambers behind the Shell Station on Main St.

The most important item on the Agenda is the report from the Department of Justice regarding the some $300,000 in Drug Forefieture Funds that the DOJ has deemed misappropriated and have issued to the city an immediate demand for repayment.

The Mayor made an attempt 2 weeks ago to transfer funds from the General Fund to the DOJ account without authorization from the Council. The Council overrode that action and made him replace the money to the General Fund.

Tomorrow the Council must rule on how this repayment will be handled. Continue reading “Bay City Council meeting agenda released”

Tuesday evening promises a full house…..

And with Sam Atkinson of the Office of the State Auditor Performance Audit Division rumored to be in attendance, Tuesday’s Bay St Louis City council meeting promises to be quite the spectacle. I’m certain everyone attending will be on their best behavior (or not).

Reading the tea leaves locally there is an incredible amount of heat being applied to the City’s elected officials by concerned citizens regarding the DoJ report. Everyone on the City’s email list should get a sneak peek at the meeting when the preliminary agenda is released sometime this afternoon.

Stay tuned.

BREAKING: Word filtering out the Department of Justice report on the City of Bay St Louis has been released (Updated)

In fact, based on what I am being told, it appears the final report on the Equitable Sharing Grant has been released for several days but this situation is fluid as I write this. According to unofficial sources:

1. The DoJ Report has been released.
2. It mandates the City repay all misspent money to the grant program or be debarred from participating in the Equitable Sharing Program.
3. The tab for this is being stuck on the taxpayers of Bay St Louis instead of the perpetrators.

There is more that I will not go into here folks.  If number 3 above is accurate, there is going to be hell to pay because there are some very fired up members of the community already speaking about hiring counsel to sue to the City.

Stay tuned.

Update:
Since this post was published it has come to my attention official denials have been made regarding the release of the DOJ report and the repayment demand. We are working to clarify this situation.

Update:

Slabbed New Media stands behind its initial reporting.

Friday Omnibus: Love them new 1095s like red beans and rice

Pro Insider tip: You know its gonna be a good fee generator when the bookkeeping staff becomes weepy worried about tax season deadlines.

The Department of the Treasury has concluded that some employers, insurers, and other providers of coverage need additional time to adapt and implement systems and gather, analyze, and report the information. Employers and coverage providers are encouraged to provide returns and statements as soon as they are able to do so.

The only hiccup I see is in the implications of the extended 1095 deadlines on the deadline for 1040 filers in particular.

How about a couple of stories we’ve been following. First up it appears the light bulb has finally turned on in an area of Hizzoner’s brain that was once thought to have been completely and irreversibly damaged:

Where’s the DOJ money? Bay council blocks mayor’s $88K transaction ~ Wes Muller

Caught in a trap…..

Ah hem, lest I digress we had a major federal court hearing in Gulfport on the Singing River Hospital Disaster. Of particular interest was the Singing River/Jackson County gang that can’t seem to shoot straight waxing both apologetically and indignantly attempting the play the different crowds in the different venues. What follows is the indignant: Continue reading “Friday Omnibus: Love them new 1095s like red beans and rice”

Comment bump | Lana Noonan: Mayor exercised poor judgment speaking about DoJ Audit and misspent funds

Folks I was at part of last night’s meeting and put out two segments on Periscope both of which will self destruct in 9 hours or so. The State Auditor segment is wobbly but with good acoustics. The public comment section included Mr. Wells of Ward 6 with the Mayor’s interrupting Mr. Well’s remarks but what he said being very hard to discern acoustically on that segment posted to Periscope.

It is a fairly well known fact that I am hearing impaired so I had a hard enough time hearing what I thought the Mayor said, which I discerned as, “the Apollo moon landings were staged at a movie studio in New Orleans (Film Tax Credit Incentivized), the reality is that the moon is made of green cheese and that it’s all former Mayor Favre’s fault.” Luckily for everyone Lana Noonan of the Hancock Alliance for Good Government was sitting next to me taking notes and I think she heard what the Mayor actually said:

The Mayor utilized his poor judgement early in the meeting last night when he interrupted Ward 6 resident, David Well’s and attempted to blame the previous administration for the handling of the DOJ funds!

I have reviewed the previous city audits and could not locate the handling of those funds as a finding until this year.

Four of the seven Council served in the previous administration with former Mayor, Eddie Favre, and Ward I Councilman Doug Seal stated publicly last night that the handling of these Drug Forfeiture Funds were never a finding in the city audits until this year under the Fillingame administration.

In their Preliminary Report the Department of Justice concurred with the independent auditing firm.The DOJ also declared some of the expenditures were impermissible and there was not sufficient documentation to prove the funds were spent on Police Dept. needs as required by law.

If the Departnent of Justicd had found everything in apple pie order, they would have issued that determination to the Council by letter and left town. They would not have ordered an audit!

“They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance”

Indeed they do but I’m a bit jaded by prior auditing experience. Speaking of that how about another quote to go with the Edmund Burke quote in the post title.

There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don’t know. ~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Next up put under the Old Town Trolley by Hizzoner is the City’s former audit firm:

Where’s the DOJ money? Feds issue report on Bay St. Louis’ missing $298K ~ Wes Muller

No folks, this is not a bad rerun of the Singing River Health System financial meltdown because the root cause of the problem is easier to trace here in Bay St Louis.  Sources inside City Hall not authorized to speak with the media have repeatedly indicated to Slabbed New Media that the check which closed the bank account holding the Equitable Sharing funds was drafted less than 6 months after Mayor Fillingame first took office. The check to close the dedicated bank account and co-mingle the funds was written by former City Comptroller Katherine Smith and signed by Mayor Fillingame. This transaction was subsequently journalized into the City’s General Fund book of accounts by former City Clerk David Kolf before being expended on things such as fancy street lights for Old Town.

This is not particularly innovative form of administrative fraud folks. You never co-mingle dedicated funds and the former City Clerk should have made that clear to Hizzoner.

I forgot to mention this post is brought to you by the Old Town Bay St Louis Business Council: Continue reading ““They defend their errors as if they were defending their inheritance””

Transparency again an issue at Bay City Hall

To say we have a few things going on in the background is a bit of an understatement as we have some major technology upgrades in progress to go with everything else thus we have several irons in the proverbial fire. I mention this because I left last week’s City Council meeting with the impression the Administration and Council would be working on a more cooperative level but that appears to be an illusion.

To set things up at 4:30 last Tuesday there was a Council workshop to discuss the audit and the capital improvements proposed to be funded by the upcoming bond issue. During the audit portion of the workshop City Clerk Clark disclosed to the City Council that the DoJ folks were done looking at the Equitable Sharing Funds, of which close to $300,000 looks to have been misspent by the Fillingame Administration on things like fancy street lights for Ward 2. Clark revealed that DoJ was requiring a forensic audit of the program before any further Equitable Sharing funds can be expended by the City and that everything he was telling the council was contained in an email that he received from the City’s contact at Department of Justice. The Council asked to see the correspondence and Clark indicated that would not be a problem.

The problem of course is that here we are a week later and sources on the Bay City Council indicate to Slabbed New Media that despite repeated requests to Mr. Clark for the requested information, he has not sent the DoJ email to the City Council, likely because Mayor Fillingame told him not to share the email being my guess. Continue reading “Transparency again an issue at Bay City Hall”

Editorial: Slabbed calls on the Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation of misspent BSL Forfeiture funds.

Over this past year Slabbed has covered problem after problem associated with the handling of public funds by the administration of Mayor Les Fillingame. Worse, after problems surface the reaction by the administration has been to attempt cover-ups rather than address the problems created by a complete lack of functioning internal controls caused by Mayoral overrides.

This is not some sort of political squabble as some media outlets try to spin the massive misspending and accompanying web of lies and deceit.  When the Chief Executive of a City does what he damn well pleases with public funds without considering the consequences of not staying within the 4 corners of the law and his own contractual agreements he crosses the Rubicon into a set of circumstances described by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants as “The Achilles’ Heel of Fraud Prevention” that auditors should consider a major audit risk factor.  And in that parlance it falls to the audit committee or its equivalent to see to it the problems are fixed.

In a Mississippi municipality the audit committee is the City Council and they discharge that duty in seeing that an annual audit is conducted.  In a perfect storm that helped enabled the current mess there remains three City Council members that refuse to properly discharge their responsibility to their constituents to provide financial oversight.  Gaining access to basic records has resulted in epic battles with the administration by the four members that are actually trying to reign in a rogue administration all while State Auditor Stacey Pickering sat on his hands despite the massive amount of smoke billowing from City Hall, until very recently that is when Department of Justice auditors showed up looking into misspent Equitable Sharing funds.

Here in Bay St Louis, A Place Apart, the Mayor has steadfastly refused to submit the final documents needed by the City’s audit firm to complete the 2014 fiscal year audit potentially placing the City’s sale tax revenue stream in jeopardy.  The Mayor’s reckless actions carry real and possibly severe consequences for the City’s residents.  Instead the Mayor threatens to move the council clerks from the council chambers to City hall in an act of retaliation because he contends too much information is flowing from the council chambers.  In his world the problem isn’t the misspending or blatant disregard for the contracts he signed, rather the problem is in the public finding out.

The colloquial expression from the Watergate era “it’s not the crime, but the cover-up” seemingly applies to Bay St Louis in spades. But as Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo observed, “only fools believe that. It’s always about the crime. The whole point of the cover-up is that a full revelation of the underlying crime is not survivable.” At this point only a complete and thorough investigation by the FBI can sort things out. Slabbed calls on US Attorney Davis to criminally investigate the City’s mishandling of its Equitable Sharing Funds. At this point it is the only thing that can begin to restore public confidence in municipal government.

DOJ-Gate: Never a dull moment in the Bay. The problem with telling whopper after whopper…

Before this is done folks we will have us a real life case study in both financial ineptitude along with the cost of making things up as you go:

Where’s the DOJ money? Affidavits signed by Bay mayor reveal contradictions ~ Wes Muller

I’m going to be bold and make a prediction because I do not think the Sun Herald got those Equitable Sharing Agreements from the City. These came from a FOIA to the DOJ because despite what the Mayor and certain kool-aid drinkers think, most every scrap of paper in our City Hall belongs to the public rather than the man trying to cover up years of misdeeds in Mayor Fillingame.

I was at the August 18, 2015 City council meeting and heard the direct quote from Mayor Fillingame included in Muller’s article where he told lie after lie to the City Council  about the proper handling of the Equitable Sharing grant and those affidavits he swore through the years expose them for everyone to see. Even worse at the October 7, 2015 meeting the Mayor flat out refused to separate the comingled funds while sending his new City Clerk out to bullshit the City Council on why they could not get access to the original invoices they were being asked to approve for payment.

Through time the Mayor has repeatedly presented an infantilized position on why he fails to abide by the financial agreements that he makes for the City.  Earlier this year when it was revealed the City had not segregated the $13/month water and sewer surcharge that was dedicated to paying off water and sewer bonds, the Mayor blamed the city council for not specifying the exact procedures he was to use to handle the funds despite the fact he agreed in the bond covenants to deposit the funds into a dedicated debt service account monthly. Continue reading “DOJ-Gate: Never a dull moment in the Bay. The problem with telling whopper after whopper…”