He claims that home confinement would be fine too but before he goes back into the consulting business with a local sitting politician we need to hash out a thing or two starting with that brand spanking new Jackson County Adult Detention Center from where the stench of a steaming pile of Maxwell-Walker scat still emanates. Jackson County still has too many CONsultants on the loose as it stands.
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.
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?
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.”
I am hearing things from Jackson County political observers located in a couple of different places in the county that indicate two, maybe three incumbent Supervisors will lose their re-election bids but not all five. I am also hearing that Supervisor John McKay may have enough support to win re-election under a lesser of multiple evils theory. I’d like to hear what you folks think, especially those of you in District 4 5 that intend to vote in the August GOP primary election.
There must be nothing more low-down in Supervisor John McKay’s world than “fictions names”.
I’ll admit that I met Frank Leach many years ago up in Jackson at continuing education (I mean many years ago). I made such an impression Frank didn’t remember making my acquaintance but we did get reacquainted back in January if I remember right. In any event I suspect the real Eye Spy would be amused to know he has managed to get under Supervisor McKay’s skin.
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…….
Welp folks, I got another Department of Marine Resources care package that contained some pictures, including a few Silver Dollar group photos. But what was most interesting was a tip I received on the Slabbed Action Line involving alleged family-blood and/or in-law relationships in the current DMR senior management team but the tip was not specific enough for me to pursue.
I’ll see what I can develop and present from the care package and tip.