Slabbed explores the almost completed Jackson County Adult Detention Center – Part 2 | Maxwell-Walker gains an unlikely ally

I ended part one with the emergence of then Pascagoula Mayor Robbie Maxwell and Scott Walker touting a cheaper jail solution to an incomplete architectural jail design which had not yet been bid at the time Walker and Maxwell appeared before the County Board of Sups.  Remember folks this went down in January 2011, the start of an election year.  Maxwell Walker must have had a hard time getting traction for David Deaton and Richard Rula of Hemphill, two of the three parties behind Southeastern Composites because a few months later the now disgraced Chris Epps appeared before the County Board of Supervisors touting a hub and spoke prison design of the type Deaton had experience in previously constructing in a “spoke” dome county jail for Tishomingo County in 2006, then as President of a company called Composite Building Systems.  Today David Dean Deaton II is no longer associated with the company except as registered agent, where he is listed on the Mississippi Secretary of State database as Dean Deaton.

So folks, let’s start a timeline:

  • January 24, 2011 – Maxwell Walker appear at Board of Supervisors meeting touting cheaper alternative to a jail which was still in the design phase on behalf of a new client, which is owned by Richard Rula of Hemphill Construction and  David Deaton.
  • March 14, 2011 – Scott Walker and David Deaton of Southeastern Composites form Gulf Coast Consultants LLC.
  • April 2011 – MDOC Executive Director Chris Epps appears before the Jackson County Board of Supervisors touting the design being pushed by Maxwell-Walker Consultants.
  • April 16, 2011 – OpEd column written by Supervisor Tommy Brodnax appears in the Mississippi Press under the title “Commissioner Epps should butt out of jail plans” Broadnax points the finger squarely at Maxwell Walker in this very public letter to then Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour:

Continue reading “Slabbed explores the almost completed Jackson County Adult Detention Center – Part 2 | Maxwell-Walker gains an unlikely ally”

Slabbed explores the almost completed Jackson County Adult Detention Center – Introduction

The last time Slabbed began chasing a lead that ended up uncovering a huge number of what I’ll term rabbit trails into the brier patch was the massive political corruption scandal in Jefferson Parish back in 2010. I mention this because earlier this year I received a tip which mentioned a significant ramp up of of FBI agents and resources in Mississippi with Jackson being ground zero. A few months later through a completely unrelated source and by happenstance I was able to confirm the first tip. The question to me then became one of the focus of the FBIs interests and we’ve been treated in the news to several tantalizing clues the most recent being our State Auditor according to the Clarion Ledger. I think we can piece several things together and arrive at a reasonable answer and to begin we start with a story today by Greg Gordon of McClatchy DC that appeared in today’s Sun Herald. Gordon’s presence on the scene is significant because he is the Sun Herald’s parent corp’s best financial fraud reporter and what appeared today makes a nice starting point for the coming Slabbed series on the construction of the Jackson County ADC:

In Waveland, federal auditors unnerved local officials by finding a contractor hired to build a temporary sewer system double-billed the city $811,000 for 379 pumps already covered by the contract and improperly charged $608,000 more for 290 more sewage-storage tanks that weren’t part of the agreement.

And who was this contractor?

Waveland’s predicament, however, underscores a central reality for watchdogs who have sought to ensure the fair and efficient expenditures of tax dollars: In Mississippi, one of the nation’s poorest states, most jurisdictions lack the money to repay questioned costs.

“There’s no way, practically, for (the city) to repay that money,” said Gary Yarborough, Waveland’s city attorney. The city’s population has dropped from 8,000 to about 6,000, and its fiscal year budget is $4.2 million, he said.

City officials told federal examiners they’d alerted state auditors years ago that the firm contracted to build the sewage system, Hemphill Construction Co. of Florence, had overcharged for the project. But FEMA has so far chosen to pursue the city rather than the company, Yarborough said.

Waveland’s appeal for relief from FEMA is pending. Hemphill’s president, Richard Rula, did not respond to a phone message.

Hemphill was ubiquitous in Hancock County in the years after the storm and there are reasons for that. The section of Central Avenue in Waveland between Coleman Avenue and Nicholson occasionally makes me question whether the company should have been in the road and infrastructure rebuilding business at all. At the end of the day the companies that seemingly came out of nowhere after the Hurricane to nab rebuild contracts traces to an old political feud between then Senator Trent Lott and then Prez Geroge Bush. Jeb Bush was Florida’s governor at the time. With the political players set lets hit the way back machine and set the dial for April 2006 and Bloomberg Business Magazine: Continue reading “Slabbed explores the almost completed Jackson County Adult Detention Center – Introduction”

Nothing fishy here, what’s a hole in the ground between friends. Slabbed takes a trip down memory lane with Jackson County Supervisor John McKay

Jackson County Supervisor John McKay and his unwavering support of Bill Walker during the DMR Scandal was certainly enough to put him on Slabbed’s radar screen back in the day.  Since then we’ve all gotten to see McKay in action once again in the Singing River Meltdown beginning with the demise of his appointed trustee, Morris Strickland.  No one news story better encapsulates John McKay the elected official than the saga of the folks in Vancleave up on McGregor road that were McKayed by McKay and his political family during the construction of the new Ocean Springs High School. I can think of no better place to start telling this story than with Jackson County Spokeswoman April Havens in early December 2009:

A Kiln man who won a $3.1 million contract to supply dirt for the new Ocean Springs High School was granted permission by county supervisors Monday to construct two 10-acre catfish ponds on his Vancleave land despite local resistance.

Tommy Cobb bought the McGregor Road land in June 2008, he said, to use for hunting and catfish ponds.

In October, the Jackson County Planning Commission voted 6-1 to allow Cobb to construct his ponds and haul off the dirt, but resident Louis Fortenberry appealed that decision to the Board of Supervisors, which heard the appeal Monday.

Fortenberry claimed Cobb hadn’t received the proper permits for digging the ponds, among other problems.

Supervisors, however, said the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality confirmed that Cobb received his necessary permits for the ponds, which will be 8 feet deep.

And indeed Cobb did have Catfish Pond permits, which are far easier to obtain from MS DEQ than a permit to extract dirt as we continue:

Attorney Michael Watson said Cobb would not maintain a dirt pit, but rather haul the dirt to the new Oceans Springs High School site, for which his company, G&C Construction, won a contract.

G&C Construction won a $3.1 million contract to supply the high school with 260,000 cubic yards of dirt, he said.

To some, that plan might “look fishy,” Supervisor John McKay said, noting some are upset that Cobb was able to “lowball” the bid because he’d be using his own dirt.

“I haven’t liked the way this has been handled, but we allow other people to dig ponds,” McKay said before making the motion to deny the appeal.

“I think you have a legal right to do what you’re doing,” he said.

Watson said Cobb bought the land in 2008 with the intent to construct a hunting camp and the ponds.

“He’s been open and honest,” Watson said. “He’s had the same intentions from day one. I’m sure some folks are going to say he worked one over on the system, but it just worked out for him.”

So here are the players per Haven’s press release, Tommy Cobb, Supervisor John McKay and now State Senator Michael Watson.  Mr. Cobb sure was lucky Continue reading “Nothing fishy here, what’s a hole in the ground between friends. Slabbed takes a trip down memory lane with Jackson County Supervisor John McKay”

Bump: Taxpayers on the hook in D’Iberville after consulting scam collapses

RFP in comments on Today’s auditing moment: Fictitious Vendor Embezzlement

The forecast is for increased heat in the City of D’Iberville.
Ocean Expo’s delay means taxpayers may pay first bond note

D’IBERVILLE — City officials expected Ocean Expo Aquarium to be built and open by now and ticket prices to cover the cost of repaying the bond to purchase the land.

Instead the city may have to make the initial $318,668 payment — due in September — out of the general fund.

A visit to EMMA has been scheduled to do some digging into the official statement.

Additional Ocean Expo:
Can anyone provide information on the contract for site work at the Ocean Expo site?

IMMS solicited bids for “site preparation Phase 1″; the Daily Journal Of Commerce Gulf Coast (see page 17) reported that a local firm by the name of SH Anthony was among the plan holders. Bids were due on August 9, 2012. Was a contract let? Or was this the work that Harrison County did? (See Sun Herald article).

“A clean, good opinion”!? Which one???

I always get a charge from local press coverage of GAGAS / SIngle Audit presentations because what are seemingly simple concepts are actually mind numbingly arcane.  Luckily for the reader, my mind has previously been numbed with this bit of arcanity so along those lines I got a chuckle at Mary Perez’s rendition of the D’Iberville City Council meeting where their FYE September 30, 2012 SIngle Audit report was presented.

First things first folks as the audit submission is late (it was due on June 30, 2013) and that gives a clue as to the state of the finance department at the City.  Good, clean records are easy to audit and those entities with good, clean records typically are not late with audit submissions. In fact, my experience has been that auditees with good, clean records typically have their audits wrapped up 3 to 4 months after the fiscal year end.  In the private sector 3 months after Fiscal year end is typically considered timely for audit completion by way of comparison.

The second thing is Mary’s report quotes the CPA firm representative as saying the firm’s opinion was unqualified which in turn is a “clean, good opinion”.  My question is which opinion because there are something like 4 or 5 auditor opinion letters contained in a single audit and from the sound of things the City of D’Iberville’s operations are anything but “clean” and “good” as there is double dealing galore there beginning with DMR but not ending there as internal controls over grants and contracts appear nonexistent along with gaping holes in the cash disbursement processes.  That much was clear from Mary’s report and there is nothing good or clean about that.

And then of course there is that pesky FBI investigation into the Utility Authority, SH Anthony Construction Company along with Maxwell Walker Consulting and their curious contract with the City.  And while my experience has been that FBI agents are meticulous in their grooming, there is nothing good and clean about having the FBI about investigating government corruption. Continue reading ““A clean, good opinion”!? Which one???”