Jackson County Public Relations begins the tale of woe struck County retirees, Slabbed has the privilege of finishing it

Jackson County Attorney Paula Yancey
Jackson County Attorney Paula Yancey

Way back in 2013 April Havens over at the Mississippi Press began telling County Attorney Paula (Sue Nations Stennett) Yancey’s story of her tie-up with the Mississippi Public Employees Retirement System on behalf of the Jackson County Sheriff’s office everyone should have known there was a major problem with the county’s compliance with certain laws and regulations, mainly because the early reports of the exact nature of the problem were largely incomprehensible and it is with the first incomprehensible report that I start circa March 15, 2013:

Jackson County is going up against the state’s Public Employees’ Retirement System in an effort to save thousands of hours in leave that employees have accrued over many years.

County attorney Paula Yancey was in Chancery Judge Charles Bordis’ courtroom this afternoon to ask him to stop a March 26 hearing before the PERS board in Jackson.

Attorney Amy St. Pé, who is representing the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, joined Yancey in court. Representing PERS were Alison O’Neal and Jane Mapp.

So there we have it folks, all the legal players are laid out neatly by Havens and for this we should be appreciative. But she loses me terming the legal dispute “a debate” because while courthouses may indeed occasionally house debates featuring master debaters what was going on with the attempted home cooking of Mississippi PERS in a Jackson County Courtroom was not a debating society prattling away discussing esoteric issues:

The debate cropped up near the end of 2011, Yancey said, when the county was copied on a letter sent from PERS to a retired sheriff’s department employee.

The employee had been retired for about 9 months when PERS said he was retired in error and asked him to repay money he had received, she said.

PERS then asked for a copy of the county’s personnel policy.

On May 31, 2012, the county received another letter from PERS “that made an administrative determination” and included an analysis and interpretation of the county’s leave policy, Yancey said.

The letter said that allowing current county employees to continue using leave would be considered a “prohibited donation,” she said, and asked the county to wipe the leave off its books.

Jackson County is arguing that PERS doesn’t have jurisdiction to interpret a county’s policy with total disregard for how the county interprets its own policy, nor does it have the power to dictate policy.

“They are so far outside their authority,” Yancey told the judge, noting that PERS doesn’t have a role in the process until an employee actually retires.

So are we getting this folks, those nasty PERS people have no business telling the County how much leave its employees may apply to the system in order to collect benefits. As a former auditor that knows a few things about Mississippi PERS I can assure everyone the system has some very clear rules about how much unused leave can be applied to creditable service but you’d never know that from that early 2013 story. You see the problem wasn’t with PERS at all, rather it was the County’s own leave policies that was too generous with PERS benefits, such not being the first time a local government tried using PERS in a way that is financially detrimental to the pension plan to the benefit of the local employees. Evidently Ms. Yancey and the County Controller, an Ex State Auditor’s office employee, did not get that memo as we fast forward a year to March 2014 and an update from County PR:

Jackson County supervisors today passed a resolution asking for the state Legislature, Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves to clarify the authority of the Public Employees’ Retirement System.

Specifically, the county — which has been at odds with PERS since 2012 on an issue of retirees’ accrued vacation and sick leave — is asking the legislators to clarify whether PERS has authority to interpret a local government’s personnel policies.

Since 2012, the county has been trying to save thousands of hours in leave that its employees have accrued over many years.

According to the resolution, PERS has retroactively revoked or reduced benefits and asked some retired employees — many of whom have been retired for more than a year and a half — to repay certain benefits.

This was followed by another update two days later reporting progress on the legislative front:

An amendment passed by the House today on Senate Bill 2257 could help Jackson County in its fight against the Public Employees’ Retirement System to save benefits for many county retirees.

Earlier this week, Jackson County supervisors formally asked the Legislature to clarify PERS’s authority, which has been questioned by the county in court hearings.

The amendment, penned by Jackson County state Rep. Manly Barton, does just that.

The short amendment reads, “No administrative agency of this state shall interpret the personnel policies of local governmental entities. Local governmental entities are the initial interpreters of its personnel policies, and same shall only be reviewed by a court of this state situated within the jurisdiction of the local governmental entity whose policy is in question.”

The issue of policy interpretation came up in the county’s dealings with PERS, which began in 2012. The issue deals with accrued vacation and sick leave that PERS says is not creditable to certain retirees’ retirement.

Thousands of hours are at stake, and the retirement system has asked several county retirees to repay benefits. PERS argues that the county’s personnel policy was vague and did not comply with regulation, but the county argues it did comply and that PERS doesn’t have authority to interpret its policies.

“If we wrote the policy, then obviously we should be the ones to interpret our own policies first,” said Barton, a former Jackson County supervisor. “Then if there’s evidence that the personnel policy somehow does not conform to state law, then the state agency can take it to court. Rather than us proving we are right, they’ve got to prove we’re wrong.”

Barton was evidently drinking Ms. Yancey’s brand of kool-aid but his amendment was struck from the final bill that passed. Even worse Jackson County was losing in court.

Now it is at this point I’d like to remind everyone of a major catastrophe that was brewing right at the same time that Barton was pumping his anti-PERs amendment and that was Singing River Health System’s financial house of cards was also unraveling in March 2014.  This is important because the County supervisors are very clear that no tax money will be used to bail out the SRHS pension plan that was secretly terminated by the Supervisor’s appointees on the SRHS Board of Trustees late last year. With such parameters defining pension problem solutions in Jackson County, how did the Sups solve the problem they had with Sheriff’s Department Employees that had over collected pension benefits based on bad county leave policies?

I’d turn to April Havens for the answer but March of 2014 marked the last report on this matter that I could find. It seems as if the County Sups suddenly wanted to keep this matter quiet. Luckily for everyone I have the answer to this question. Continue reading “Jackson County Public Relations begins the tale of woe struck County retirees, Slabbed has the privilege of finishing it”

Once again the role of the media in covering a major local scandal comes to the fore…..

Over the weekend I was pointed to the Facebook page of Mississippi Press reporter April Havens by a disillusioned Mississippi Press reader from Jackson County. I understood why my tipster was disillusioned immediately:

Slabbed does not exist to dog other media outlets but there are times you wonder exactly what the heck someone is thinking over at the competition. Those that want to know what the folks in Jackson County over at SRHS Watch think should try today’s post:

While the JCBOS is Dogging The Sun Herald… ~ SRHS Watch

Those wanting additional information should click here.

“Most sell out for peanuts” – Political operative married to an elected Louisiana politician describing the New Orleans media scene to Doug Handshoe, October 2010.

Guest Post: Cisco Aguilar’s Full Remarks before Jackson County Supervisors July 6, 2015

JCBOS Meeting
07/06/2015

Good Morning.
During the last meeting Mr. McKay, as well as two current hospital employees, showered high praise on Mr. Holland and the “new” Administration at the helm of Singing River Health System. We must now respectfully but wholeheartedly disagree with their appraisal.

Our problem with the current leadership is that it is following in the footsteps of the old one, using the same methods that produced the colossal fiasco the System is now in. In fact, most of the top leaders have not changed at all, as six out of the seven voting trustees are the same ones who actually presided over the entire debacle.

After all, it was Kevin Holland who on March 31, 20141 sought to lull us into complacency claiming that the pension plan was safe and sound on the heels of an incredible $88 million “accounting adjustment” announcement.2

It was also Mr. Holland who, with the support from other current Administration members3 and with the approval of the Board of Trustees, attempted on November 29, 2014 to eliminate the burdensome pension plan overnight, writing off SRHS obligations to the pension participants, as well as their future livelihood guarantees, with the stroke of a pen and no true hint of remorse.4

Seven months later, secrecy and deception continues to reign sovereign at SRHS, as evidenced by the struggle everyone is enduring to shine light on what actually happened to bring about this disaster.5

Continue reading “Guest Post: Cisco Aguilar’s Full Remarks before Jackson County Supervisors July 6, 2015”

Guest Post: Jackson County Supervisors not completely honest with Jackson County residents

It appears the Jackson County Board of Supervisors and their appointed Trustees are not being completely open and transparent with the residents of Jackson County. The claims of protecting the hospitals privacy is just that – claims. Could their actions or rather lack of action be an attempt to protect current and former employees, friends or perhaps themselves by withholding public information? Who are the individuals responsible for the Singing River Hospital System’s pension downfall?

Honesty and revealing the truth to the citizens of Jackson County should be easy. The many inconsistent and off-the-wall statements our supervisors have uttered make it difficult to believe that any one of them is credible.

Are the Board of Supervisors saying the Trustees have all the power of operating the Singing River Hospital System? If the appointed Trustees are as qualified and levelheaded as some proclaim, why haven’t they unearthed the many improprieties reported to the Singing River Hospital System over the years?

In the upcoming Jackson County Board of Supervisors’ election, remember the incumbents who are asking for your vote. Have they performed the duties they were elected to fulfill?

Why not ask a Singing River Hospital System retiree their opinion?

Maxine Ramsay

Former SRHS CEO Chris Anderson is a CPA/CEO so let’s try to think like one

Since transparency is still sorely lacking over at Singing River Health and because I rolled out my working theory why the events surrounding this man made financial disaster have unfolded in a certain way we have to take a step back and look at the big picture. And to do that we must think like former CEO Chris Anderson, the man with all the answers.

To understand how the disaster unfolded most good Certified Fraud Examiners will tell you to “think dirty” and what it meant by that term is that the “frauditor” must 1. Understand how the perpetrator thinks by attempting to walk the proverbial mile in the perp’s moccasins which leads to 2. Gaining a possible understanding the motivations which lead to the disaster. This specialty is essentially the intersection of the social sciences with the accounting and finance that was originally pioneered by legendary sociologist/criminologist Donald Cressey, a name that has been mentioned a few times previously on this website.

First up are a few requisite disclosures. Dating back to November of last year I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many fine folks from over in Jackson County with connections to either the hospital system or County Government and the resultant communications with this group have a painted a picture of CEO Anderson that I thought was rich in its depth and color that also came with some analysis that is out of this world in my opinion.  Important to note is that the totality of what I’ve been told by multiple parties (many with but some without a dog in the hunt) about Anderson is actually fair to the man, who has been the villain of choice for the media covering this disaster, Slabbed included.

The most frequent adjective mentioned to me concerning Anderson is Continue reading “Former SRHS CEO Chris Anderson is a CPA/CEO so let’s try to think like one”

If you’re not reading SRHS Trustee Scott Taylor’s blog…..

Then those of you that get part of your daily news on Slabbed are really missing out. First off I want to give Taylor a WordPress platform tip so that the posts and comment time stamps are expressed in local time. From your dashboard go to “settings”, then click “general” on the sub-menu. On your general settings tab change the timezone to “UTC-5” from the drop down menu. You can thank me later.

On Sunday, Taylor posted his take on the Board of Supervisor’s recent Public Relations push with legal consultant Billy Guice on the point for the Sups. The post was good but the comments to Taylor’s post, as is often the case on an interactive website, are out of this world and I think are a must read.

My personal opinion is most everyone on the outside looking in at the Singing River financial disaster without a financial dog in the hunt, especially informed financial observers spot the self-serving duplicity in how both the Supervisors and the SRHS Board of Trustees are trying to frame the management perpetrated accounting fraud which lays at the heart of financial crisis that grips the hospital.

At its most basic, both the Sups and the SHRS Trustees are trying to scapegoat the former auditors and the retirees for the bad business practices and fraudulent  financial reporting which occurred under former CEO Chris Anderson’s and CFO Mike Crews’ watch at the helm of SRHS. It is a shame the old time practice of tarring and feathering has gone out of style because I can think of five Supervisors (Stupidvisors in RFP speak) that deserve a good tarring, feathering before being run out of town on a rail. These are strong words but I am an informed financial observer so the bullshit is easy to spot. Let’s start with April Havens over at the Mississippi Alabama Press:

Jackson County supervisors this morning announced they are suing KPMG, Singing River Health System’s former audit firm whose work led to a disastrous $88 million accounting adjustment.

Supervisors today hired attorney Billy Guice on a contingent fee basis to represent the county in its suit against the audit firm.

KPMG has been the scapegoat of choice for both the SRHS Board when the financial fraud (though it was not reported as such by the Mississippi Alabama Press) first came to light back in March, 2014 as County Comptroller Josh Eldridge, reportedly a CPA that previously worked for the State Auditor’s office took point for the Sups spinning the management perpetrated financial fraud just days after Chris Anderson abruptly left Singing River Health for Baptist in Jackson:

“It’s a large adjustment,” county Comptroller Josh Eldridge said.

Board attorney Jessica Dupont noted, however, that the county doesn’t know of a current lawsuit.

The health system is county-owned, and the county backs its debt, but county tax dollars do not fund the system’s operations. The county has five mills pledged in case the health system ever defaults on its debt, but Eldridge noted the system is “not even close” to default.

That tune has since changed with regard to the bonds being in default, such condition also present when Eldridge made those initial statements. Now back to Jackson County’s announcement that they were suing KPMG as Guice literally beclowns himself before the financial and auditing community as he lists two grounds for the suit:

Last week, Guice said the audits did not appropriately disclose the state of the pension in the annual audits. That information should have been presented in the audit highlights at the beginning of the document, he said.

Instead, the most important information was buried in the “notes” section at the end of the audit, he said.

Now at this point I’m going to put on my professional hat as a CPA/Auditor but I’m going to express the concepts in the language used by an 8 year old so that maybe some of this sinks in with the Stupidvisors, who I would highly encourage to run  by their in-house financial expert Josh Eldridge.

The “front part” of the audit is called “Management Discussion and Analysis“. You see boys and girls, in an audit there are two teams. One team is called management. The boys and girls that belong to Team Management work at the hospital. These people include doctors and nurses that cure your bobos and hurts. It also includes the boys and girls that manage the hospital. The other team is called the “auditors” and that team includes the boys and girls that make sure the Hospital reports its cures of bobos and hurts accurately for everyone most everyone for just a few people to see.

Now back to grownup talk for the professionals that read this website. Continue reading “If you’re not reading SRHS Trustee Scott Taylor’s blog…..”

FUBAR: A Jackson County Political Tradition

More than anything else the events of this week revealed exactly why the Jackson County Board of Supervisors hired Billy Guice. Campaign season can no longer be put on hold for incumbent Supervisors, who hired Guice to run interference for them, ultimately using Guice to throw their own political appointees under the bus in one last effort to save their jobs. The cost to the taxpayers for this political expenditure is $345,000 and counting. I’m fairly certain the retirees that are fixing to get screwed are not very happy with Guice’s recounting of the obvious for the Sups, which has been covered in detail on both these pages as well as the Sun Herald for the past 7 plus months.

Let’s start with the Sun Herald, which was excluded from Bronco Billy Guice’s Wild West Show, a fact they were clearly unhappy about:

Jackson County has spent $345,000 on SRHS probe ~ Anita Lee

Jackson County taxpayers should have saved their money ~ Sun Herald Editorial Board

A short snippet is in order but the entire Op-Ed is fine reading:

Looks as though the Jackson County Board of Supervisors brokered a deal for the taxpayers to buy a wheelbarrow full of fool’s gold for the low, low price of $345,000.

A subscription to the Sun Herald would have saved the taxpayers a ton of money — we don’t see anything in the report about the investigation into the Singing River Health System pension fund that hasn’t been covered in the paper.

Even better Jackson County taxpayers could have saved the S/H subscription and read up on things right here on Slabbed. 😉

Moving right along WLOX got in on the show with the following report which uncritically parrots Guice’s press release that ran in the Mississippi Press, which coincidentally is also a public relations prelude to screwing the SRHS retirees in my opinion:

Attorney Billy Guice gets on bad side of both SRHS executives and retirees ~ Mike Lacy

Poor Billy Guice had no clue he needed firefighting training before taking on this $345,000 no-bid CONsulting job with Jackson County as we turn our attention next to the Jackson County press release disguised as a trio of new reports which ran yesterday in Pravda, err, I mean the Mississippi Alabama Press: Continue reading “FUBAR: A Jackson County Political Tradition”

Consensus of Opinion: Time to replace Jackson County’s five supervisors

Retirees Protesting outside Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula May 29, 2015. Photo courtesy of SHRS Hopes Group on Facebook
Retirees Protesting outside Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula May 29, 2015. Photo courtesy of SHRS Hopes Group on Facebook

Singing River Health System retirees for some time now have been papering Jackson County with fliers with a simple message: Please help us clean house on August 4th.

We couldn’t agree more. The Jackson County supervisors must go. All five of them.

For months, they have been negligent when it comes to SRHS. At best, they didn’t know what was going on as the SRHS pension fund evaporated and hospital finances withered. And they may have known more than they’re letting on. Either way, they’ve worn out their welcome. Continue Reading…….

Private or Public? Building a Fiction ~ SRHS Watch Continue reading “Consensus of Opinion: Time to replace Jackson County’s five supervisors”