Guest Post | Hancock County Alliance for Good Government Spring Newsletter

Spring is trying to arrive, but looks like Old Man Winter just doesn’t want to let go this year. We will be dreaming of these cool temps come August when we are in the middle of a Mississippi summer and heated campaign for the 4th Congressional District Seat. Actually the run-off should be mild compared to the primary between Palazzo and Taylor. The negative flyers are already arriving in mailboxes. Sure hope this doesn’t turn into the fiasco of 3 years ago when the PACS were stuffing our mailboxes and TV screens with all of this nonsense. If this does start, we hope both candidates will step forward and denounce them and demand a real debate on the real issues, and tell the PACS to get packing.

The Hancock County Board of Supervisors is in a quandary over insurance coverage for the spouses of county employees. Claims are much higher than in the past, but on the other hand, employees have not had raises for the past 5 years. This is supposed to be hashed out at the Supers’ meeting on April 7. It would be so nice for the taxpayers of Hancock County to be able to sit at home on their own computers and view the monthly expenditures of the Supervisors, but alas that still has not happened even though District 3 Supervisor Lisa Cowand said at their Nov. 2013 meeting minutes and dockets would be online by April of this year. We checked on Friday, April 4, and their last published docket is still from April 2009, even though we requested this now 5 months ago.

They have been submitting them to the Sea Coast Echo for publication, but that is at the expense of the taxpayers. It would be so much easier and less expensive to just put them on their website. Enough of taking them at their word on this issue.

The City of Waveland is preparing for Municipal Elections, but few have announced to run for office. As the summer gets closer we are sure announcements will be forthcoming for Mayor and Aldermen with the retirement of Ward I Alderman Lili Stahler. Time will tell, and we’ll be watching, and reporting. Continue reading “Guest Post | Hancock County Alliance for Good Government Spring Newsletter”

Guest Post | Hancock County Alliance for Good Government: 2014—-A Year of “Elections” and “Decisions”

First of all, a Happy New Year to all–hope your holidays were all you wanted them to be and the New Year will be successful for you. This year will be a year of “elections” or “decisions” if you will. Waveland will hold their municipal elections in the Fall, and if that seems far off, just wait. It will be here before you know it. Certainly the announcements and campaigning will be here soon. The Alliance will sponsor a political forum as we do for all the elections, so stay tuned if you are a candidate or simply a voter.

Events that have unfolded since the Bay St. Louis officials took the oath of office last July indicate that the Bay City Council needs to “elect” to see that their city’s bills get paid whether or not the Mayor does. They may have to “take the checkbook” away from him if need be. This is, of course, a figure of speech, but they do have the legal responsibility for seeing that the bills are paid, which could be to refuse to approve any more dockets until he pays the Solid Waste and Hancock County Utility Authorities what the city owes them. After all, these folks have dockets to pay as well. And using the excuse that they fell behind because they didn’t charge enough for utilities is ridiculous. That’s not the fault of the Utility Authorities. By the way, what happened to the $500,000 line of credit that was supposed to cover these utility bills? And, most importantly, what is the administration doing with the money the users are sending to city hall to pay these bills? The city does’t own any garbage trucks or employ any garbage workers. So what makes them think they can keep funds for a service they not only do not, but cannot perform? Amazing. Who knows what the list of delinquent bills looks like? Now we are hearing that Lowe’s has cut the city off for non payment; and heard it from RELIABLE sources.

Let’s hope the ad valorem taxes in the Bay are enough to take care of these problems what with the Harbor coming on board between March and May–built by the Feds, but to be maintained by the locals. The continuing long list of foreclosures in the paper each week is very disturbing. Continue reading “Guest Post | Hancock County Alliance for Good Government: 2014—-A Year of “Elections” and “Decisions””

Guest Post | Hancock County Alliance for Good Government: Openness in Governing

In the state of Mississippi the efforts of some public officials to exclude the taxpayers from their deliberations on the expenditure of public funds has reached epidemic proportions. The sad thing is that the weak laws in this state don’t offer much relief for the taxpaying public.

In one day we get to observe a state official, State Auditor Stacey Pickering, and his staff admit under oath their efforts to hide information not only from the public, but from a Judge.

Then the Bay St. Louis Mayor and City Council call a “special” meeting to finalize the purchase of a new fire truck that will come in at slightly over $500,000. The notice of the meeting went out the morning of the meeting. This doesn’t give John Q. Public much chance to make arrangements to listen or participate in the discussion of the purchase of this equipment with our hard earned tax dollars.

No one is questioning the necessity of the equipment, but the urgency of the meeting is what is suspect. Continue reading “Guest Post | Hancock County Alliance for Good Government: Openness in Governing”

Guest Post: Hancock County Alliance for Good Government October 2013 Newsletter

HANCOCK COUNTY ALLIANCE FOR GOOD GOVERNMENT OCTOBER 2013 NEWSLETTER

For those of you familiar with the Broadway musical, “Cabaret” the local, state, and national news is beginning to sound like a refrain from one of the shows numbers: “Money.” This past month has been a numbers game for those of us studying all of the figures.

For example there are $259,955 in delinquent utility bills in Bay St. Louis. Seven of these delinquent accounts were city employees until we published the list, then one paid. Shedding light can sometimes have positive results.

There is $187,000 delinquent utility bills in Waveland which includes a former Police Chief and Mayor. We hope these accounts can be cleaned up so the rest of us don’t have to continue to carry the burden because many on these lists are more than able to pay. And, it is only going to get worse now that both cities have increased rates. For those who just will not pay, there is a remedy, if our public officials will use it, and that’s cutting them off. They sure wouldn’t get by with this with Miss. Power, Coast Electric, or Cable TV. To review the complete lists of delinquent accounts go to Slabbed.org.

Thousands of parcels of property in Hancock County have been abandoned by the owners which results in a loss of ad valorem taxes when they are returned to the state. The latest hit to the ad valorem tax base in the county is the new formula for assessing taxes on the Section 42 and Section 8 housing complexes. According to Jimmie Ladner, this loss could fall in the laps of the rest of us to make up the difference. We may not like the news, but at least Jimmie will always tell it like it is. Continue reading “Guest Post: Hancock County Alliance for Good Government October 2013 Newsletter”

Sunday Links: The dangerous people of the internet strike again!

I start this morning with a three pack from the Sea Coast Echo:

Fillingame wants loan to cover Bay’s bills ~ Cassandra Favre

“I’m still not certain that we are okay on collecting people’s waste water and garbage fees and using them for something else,” Ward Five Councilman Joey Boudin said. “We go out and borrow money after we collect their money.”

Now for the “dangerous people of the internet” link:

Bay Council eyes delinquent accounts ~ Cassandra Favre

Lana Noonan of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government should take a well deserved victory lap:

A majority of the bills are more than four months behind.

“One prompt for me to look into this,” Noonan said, “was that the council just voted for a utility increase.

“If they’re not paying now, how are they going to pay when the rates increase?”

Noonan said the delinquent amounts add up to $265,955 and the utility list was posted online on Sept. 26.

Slabbed was not credited in the story and I’m fine with that. To the extent a couple of the City council members got phone calls after Slabbed published the City’s Utility Aging well tells the tale here.  The days of the Sea Coast Echo being the gatekeeper of public information for all things Hancock County are over and that happened years ago with the ascent of this critter called the internet.  People are hungry for good information. To the extent what I do here at Slabbed New Media forces the other “dangerous people of the internet” to bring their A games to local journalism is a good thing for the public IMHO.  It shows in Cassandra Favre’s story.

There should be a lesson here for Mayor Fillingame and the Bay City Council and I absolutely think at least one member of the City Council gets it in spades.  I was not at the last City Council meeting but from what I was told it is also clear there are a few that are woefully misinformed when it comes to this internet thingy and that despite the fact at least one of the councilmen has his own internet website affiliation. Continue reading “Sunday Links: The dangerous people of the internet strike again!”

Good Government Monday: Hancock County Alliance for Good Government

It’s budget time again for the public schools in Mississippi. In Hancock County, no matter how you slice the pie, there is less revenue available due to the decrease in ad valorem taxes–high percentage of abandoned properties. The mil actually devalued here this year according to the Tax Collector’s Office.

Add to this increased insurance costs, PERS coming out of local funds this year, and no real increase in enrollment for Bay-Waveland School District. According to school records there an increase of only 9 students as of this time last year. Remember “headcount” matters every morning to determine support from the State.

To make matters worse for our school districts statewide, as of July 1, new legislation will require little Johnny to be present 63% of the day to be counted present. No more arriving at 7:30, leaving at 8:00 and still being counted present resulting in state funding.  The State Auditor, Stacey Pickering, was quoted in the Sun-Herald on June 14, as saying he has never like the Average Daily Attendance Formula because it cannot be audited. Imagine that!

Twenty years ago the Miss. Legislature commissioned a study on the spending of tax dollars by public school officials. Their findings were: Too many school districts (152) and too much money spent on administration. Their recommendations: consolidation of districts and using the savings in the classroom for teachers and students. Continue reading “Good Government Monday: Hancock County Alliance for Good Government”

Local good government groups in the news: Say what?!!!

Jefferson Parish activists demand action on proposed contracting reforms ~ Manuel Torres

Welp folks, it looks like Councilman at large/River Birch Landfill errand boy Chris “Mini-me” Roberts has not had enough 5am potty visits to fully learn about the procurement reforms recommended month ago by the BGR. Look no further than the Performing Arts Center debacle to understand the need of getting corrupt politicians outta the government procurement biz.

LANA NOONAN: Expenditure of public funds should be discussed openly ~ Letter to the editor

It appears the editorial police at the Sun Herald are now allowing mention of the Bay Tech Building swindle on their pages, which is progress.  While Slabbed never has a problem properly attributing third party sources certain old line media outlets such as the Sun Herald’s editorial page folks can’t seem to tell certain stories without weaving in some tall tales as well. The Seacoast Echo and Bay Tech? Now that’s funny. 😆

Guest Post :The Hancock County Alliance for Good Government January 2013 Newsletter

Hope everyone had a wonderful and blessed Christmas and will enjoy all the best in the New Year. And speaking of the New Year, it is going to be a busy one politically in Hancock County. Two of our cities, Bay St. Louis and Diamondhead will be holding municipal elections. The Hancock County Alliance for Good Govenment plans to be involved in both sponsoring forums, etc.

It is going to be interesting to see how the fiscal situation in our nation and state affects us locally from municipal governments to school districts.

Both of our school districts are implementing the new Common Core Curriculum, which is being done nation wide. Everyone has to follow the same rules, so we would encourage our educators to dig in their heels, and give it their best shot for the kids.

Our state leaders seem to be dedicated to supporting Charter Schools. We’ll never know how they would work in our state until we try them. One advantage is that if the Charter School does not produce, it gets shut down. Pity we can’t operate under that format with some of our public schools in our state.

We are still of the opinion that consolidation of school districts would also be beneficial primarily for the students. It has been suggested to our legislature since a study was done in 1993 to consolidate districts and take the money saved in eliminating duplication of administrative costs and put it in the classrooms. It just seems to fall on deaf ears, and our state leaders contilnue to wonder why we lag behind nationally in education year after year. Continue reading “Guest Post :The Hancock County Alliance for Good Government January 2013 Newsletter”

Guest Post: What made Bay Waveland School Board President Sherry Ponder change her mind about the Bay Tech Building

What made Dr. Sherry Ponder change her mind about having the taxpayers purchase the Bay Tech Building?

She states in the Oct. 11, edition of the Sea Coast Echo that the school district had been looking at this building and others since Sept. 29, 2005. But, when the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government wrote to her on Sept. 6, 2011, asking that the school board look around the community for an older building to renovate for their business office rather than build a new one for two million dollars, she was not interested in our idea.

The business manager actually told me in an open meeting that FEMA was going to build it, and for me to think of it as a “gift.”

Now enter the architects!! From September 2011 to May 2012, the school board doled out over $90,000 in tax dollars for plans for the new building.

Then Bam!!! In July of 2012, the Board came out of Executive Session and announced that they were going to buy the Bay Tech Building and renovate it for their Business Office. Now, this was never discussed in open session since Sept. 2011, when they rejected our idea.

So what or who changed the Board’s minds and when? Let’s remember that nothing has changed about this building since 2005–no renovations, no improvements. It still has to be brought up to code, and cosmetic work has to be done to make it habitable for our Superintendent, her staff, and the children who will be housed there on a daily basis.

Wait a minute!! One thing did change in the last 9 months while our board was flushing $90 grand down the toilet and holding firm to their opinion that this building was not appropriate for their needs—-the ownership changed to LNG Investments- Gerald Rigby and Lloyd Nicaud.

But why would this be attractive to the school district?? And, why did the taxpayers end up paying $255,000 more than LNG paid for it only 8 weeks prior with no renovations to justify a quarter of a million dollar increase in price on a piece of property in a county where the mil de-valued this year?? That is $31,875 a week profit for LNG. Not a bad piece of change!

The Hancock County Alliance for Good Government has been notified that we cannot have a tour of the building at this time because it is unsafe. I personally doubt the building is unsafe, but what is unsafe is having this board negotiate real estate transactions for the taxpayers.

Now, I have no problem with anyone making a profit, but let’s remember this is a small school district that is trying to recover from the worst natural disaster in our nation’s history.

Kind of reminds me of buzzards on road kill.

I’ll just leave you with the explanation from Mary Bunch (Lloyd Nicaud’s mother) “in the Sea Coast Echo of Sept. 29—–“these guys bought that building–they re-sold that building. That’s what they do.” Really??!!

Lana Noonan, Chairman
Hancock County Alliance for Good Government

Slabbed welcomes all points of view on the topics we cover. Our readers can submit guest columns to Slabbed New Media. While we allow anonymous comments on the blog, guest columnist must submit a verifiable name and contact information in order to be published.

Links to Slabbed’s previous coverage of this matter:

School District records suggest collusion in Bay Waveland’s School District’s purchase of Bay Tech Building

Bunch described the growing controversy as unnecessary and unfounded “havoc and chaos.”

“The people that bought the building (LNG) are all very good human beings and good citizens of Hancock County. These are businessmen and what they did – they didn’t go to the school board, from what I understand, the school board came to them. … These allegations are baseless. These guys bought that building. They re-sold that building. That’s what they do.

I was reminded of the Miranda warning when I read the Sea Coast Echo’s second try at poorly telling the stinky story of the Bay Waveland School District’s purchase of the Bay Tech Building from 3 politically connected local business people because as this drama plays out, I guarantee certain people will wish they had kept mouths shut as we visit next with local businessman Gerald Rigby and get his take on this unfolding scandal:

LNG President Jerry Rigby said Friday that any allegations of wrong-doing are completely false. Rigby said it may have been a short while between the time LNG closed on the property and then sold it to the school board, but his company had actually been working on a couple of different development deals at the Bay Tech site since at least last December.

“We contacted (Magnolia Group) through the realtor. … We proceeded with a normal real estate acquisition. We offered a number. They came back with a counter offer. They countered our counter and they accepted (our next offer) very quickly. … I don’t think we had any power to compel them to accept the offer.”

Slabbed has obtained certain documents with the help of the local Alliance for Good Government, a citizens group the Sea Coast Echo regularly paints as loons in their beat reporting on the school district. Worth noting is the editor of the Echo, Randy Ponder is married to School Board Prez Sherry Ponder, thus the lack of integrity in said beat reporting but that subject is best fleshed out in a dedicated post.

What documents did I obtain? For purposes of this post I’m going to zero in on three: One page from the deed related to the sale of the building by LNG to School Board, one of the two appraisal reports that were ordered by the School District and the following letter from the AFGG to School Board Prez Sherry Ponder dated September 6, 2011: Continue reading “School District records suggest collusion in Bay Waveland’s School District’s purchase of Bay Tech Building”