To the Editor: Municipal Donations to Non-profits

To The Editor:

It is Budget preparation time again for our public officials. While we appreciate the effort they put into managing our tax dollars, we would like to make a couple of suggestions since all are working with tight budgets and face many needs to be met for their communities.

  1. As always, public officials are solicited by “non-profit” organizations for donations of public money to help meet their needs. When considering your contribution of our tax dollars to these groups, please make every effort to determine if there is anyone on their staff or in their organization that is paid more than your entity’s highest paid employee or elected official. If so, the answer has to be “no.” If a “non-profit” can out compensate the entity they are soliciting, they do no qualify for public assistance.
  2. If you have outstanding accounts payable that cannot be resolved in the current fiscal year, and have to be carried over as expenses to the next, please do not use our tax dollars for anything other than our immediate financial obligations.

We appreciate the work of non profits and belong to several ourselves. However, we do feel there are other avenues of approach to meet their financial needs such as fund raisers and raising membership dues.

Lana Noonan, Chairman
Ron Thorp, Co-Chairman
Hancock County Alliance for Good Government

Last night’s Bay City Council Heroes are Councilmen Reed and Falgout

By Lana Noonan, Special to Slabbed New Media

The big surprise party for Mayor Fillingame last night was courtesy of Ward 6 Councilman Lonnie Falgout. Falgout confronted City Attorney Rafferty and Mayor Fillingame with documents from the Hancock Bank pertaining to the Restructured Bond Agreement of last summer when the city could not come up with their payment of over 400,000 on Utility system bonded debt.

Falgout asked Rafferty if he was present when the documents were signed–Rafferty replied yes. Then Falgout told the Mayor that he had signed a document with the bank guaranteeing them that payments of not less than $30,000 a month would be DEPOSITED in the debt service holding account for the payment coming up on July 1, 2015.

Fillingame adamantly denied promising to DEPOSIT the money monthly to the debt service account until Falgout read the document aloud to the Mayor and all present. According to Falgout at the last meeting, no DEPOSITS were made from October, 2014 until the end of March, 2015, coincidentally when the Ad Valorem taxes were coming in from the County Tax office. So, what was happening to that “not less than $30,000 a month” promised to the bank under the Mayor and City Clerk’s signature? This is what caught the attention of Councilman-at-large Mike Favre when he didn’t see that account growing to the amount the council had appropriated in the 2014-2015 budget.

This is important because when the Mayor and City Clerk were taken to task several meetings ago about the funds not being deposited on a monthly basis or reported to the Council, the Mayor took the podium and chastised the Council saying–“you can only speak through your minutes, and you have never told us how you wanted it handled.” Mayor Fillingame then informed the council the transfer to the debt service fund would be made quarterly.

Well, get the Mayor some Aricept, because the Hancock Bank spoke through their document requiring the debt service account, the one that Mayor Fillingame and City Clerk David Kolf signed in the presence of the bank officials and the City attorney. Continue reading “Last night’s Bay City Council Heroes are Councilmen Reed and Falgout”

Pro Bono Publico: Hancock Alliance for Good Government holds Waveland Election Forum

And the new council chambers on Coleman Avenue was standing room only which is a good thing:

The feistiest exchanges happened with the 3 candidates for School Board Trustee:

Circuit Court Judicial Candidate Chris Schmidt gave a quick PSA telling those assembled that because the Judicial races are state elections, Waveland voters may have to vote at two different polling places to vote in the Municipal and State Judicial elections:

The candidate forum concluded with the Mayoral election candidates. Outgoing Mayor David Garcia Continue reading “Pro Bono Publico: Hancock Alliance for Good Government holds Waveland Election Forum”

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. 😆