On February 1, 2019 the Mississippi Ethics Commission cited the Bay St Louis City Council for violating the Mississippi Open Meeting law in the matter styled Noonan v Mayor and Councilmen of the City of Bay St Louis. In what is a recurring theme with a different cast of characters, the City conducted an improper executive session which resulted in the removal of Ellis Anderson from the Bay St Louis Historical Preservation Commission.
The opinion is not yet on the Ethics Commission website but I have seen portions of it. Essentially the Council and Mayor in the City of Bay St Louis are on the receiving end of an ethics compliant that mostly resulted from not receiving good legal advice from Board attorney Heather Ladner Smith, who failed to caution the Mayor and Council not to act on an item which was not contained on the official meeting agenda. Smith, the politically connected daughter of Hancock County Tax Collector Jimmie Ladner took over as City Attorney when Trent Favre was appointed County Court Judge.
According to Mrs. Noonan, Ms. Smith of the Butler Snow law firm is providing legal services to the City without a formal written contract, a practice the previous administration was advised to discontinue by the Office of the State Auditor.
While Slabbed gathers information to update this post, those so interested should click here for additional background.
Update: Here is the final opinion referenced yesterday. The Council was tagged with not doing their executive session correctly and cites Councilman Smith for trying to conduct deliberations with a majority of the board via email. As Lana Noonan noted in comments today, Councilman Smith was led down the primrose path by City Attorney Heather Ladner Smith. Continue reading “BREAKING: Bay St Louis City Council Cited for Violating Open Meeting Law (Updated)”
And worse, Bay St Louis City Councilmen conducting the public’s business in secret being defensive upon hearing (well deserved) criticism for holding closed door meetings with no public notice with vendors discussing a large contract (or a quorum of the Council being wined and dined by developer Jim MacPhaille at a meeting discussing one of his proposed real estate developments).
Bay Council bickers over utility audit contract ~ Stacey Cato
When Knoblock questioned DeSalvo on who initiated the meeting with Delta Water, things got a bit heated.
“I’m not going to get into this political argument with you Mr. Knoblock,” DeSalvo said. “They met at my office.”
“Who was there?” Knoblock asked.
“Myself and them,” DeSalvo said.
“Was the council president notified?” Knoblock asked.
“I notified everybody that they were coming at the (previous) meeting,” DeSalvo said.
“I’m just saying that if you’re going to negotiate contracts, that’s a council procedure,” Knoblock said.
Worse is the City Attorney that would advise a City Council to not bid large contracts just because the law says you don’t have to bid them. It would be nice if public officials would treat the public’s money with the same respect they treat their own. Continue reading ““The Optics are Terrible””
What I am getting right now are accounts of last night’s meeting but I feel safe in saying the taxpayers of the great state of Mississippi could well save money if the Ethics Commission would open a branch office at Highway 90 and Main Street in Bay St Louis.
I want to see the show for myself before I comment further but it appears these gatherings of City Council members that have respectively included developer Jim MacPhaille, former Mayor Les Fillinagme, former City Attorney Don Rafferty and current Mayor Mike Favre have gotten out of hand. It seems like yesterday…..
Unanimous Mississippi Supreme Court Decides Columbus Mayor and Council Violated Open Meetings Act ~ Mississippi Justice Institute
Today [9/7/2017], the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the Mayor and City Council of Columbus violated the Open Meetings Act when they previously met in prearranged, non-quorum size gatherings to discuss public business, intending to circumvent the Act. This is the first time the Supreme Court has ever addressed the issue of whether meetings of public officials in less than quorum numbers violate the Open Meetings Act. The Mississippi Justice Institute represented The Commercial Dispatch in the appeal.
“This is a huge win for the citizens of Mississippi and for open and accountable government,” said Mike Hurst, Director of the Mississippi Justice Institute. “People are tired of backroom deals and secret agreements by government officials that affect their lives. The Supreme Court’s opinion puts public officials and bureaucrats on notice – you cannot circumvent the law and do the people’s business behind closed doors anymore. Today’s decision is a monumental victory for transparency in government.”
[Link] to actual decision Continue reading “Bay Council again becoming interesting to watch”
At the outset, let me say that The Hancock County Alliance for Good Government has no interest in the personalities involved in the Bay St. Louis Historic Preservation Commission.
What we do have an interest in, as per our Mission Statement, is keeping the political process clean, regardless of the individuals involved in the execution of the public’s business.
On the evening of May 8, 2018, at their regular meeting, the Bay St. Louis City Council, after exiting Executive Session, acted on a item of business that was NOT on their advertised Agenda. That item of business was the dismissal of a Commissioner from the Bay St. Louis Historic Preservation Commission.
During the course of the meeting, at the second Public Forum of the evening, Ward II citizen, Teri Velardi, asked Council if they were going to take any kind of action that evening regarding the Historic Preservation Commission. She actually polled the Council one by one. All said “no.”
Council President Gene Hoffman who represents Ward II, said that there could be some issues with the Commission, but not that night. Velardi pressed them with the possibility of an Executive Session on the issue, and all either said they had no issues that night with the Commission or as Ward IV Councilman, Larry Smith said, “he had no opinion at that time on the Commission.”
When Council President Hoffman entertained a motion to consider going into Executive Session, City Attorney, Heather Smith, was the only one to say she had a property purchase and 4 or 5 litigation issues to discuss with Council. The motion by Councilman DeSalvo, and seconded by Councilman Smith passed unanimously to go into closed session. Continue reading “Guest Post | Lana Noonan: Did the Bay St Louis City Council Violate the Mississippi Open Meetings Act?”
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”
Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Handelsman to join Advocate ~ The NOLA Advocate
Walt Handelsman has been a Slabbed tweep for a while now and I’m happy to hear he is back coming home from the north east.
The Jefferson Parish Hospital debacle takes another twisted turn as the BS is freely flowing:
Don’t split hospitals without public vote, West Jeff board says ~ Jeff Adelson
Perhaps the power brokers should not have stripped the public of that right to begin with but what’s done is done. Yesterday a reader noted even the Jefferson Parish coroner chipped in his two cents on this man made disaster:
Jefferson Parish should start over on hospital lease search ~ Gerry Cvitanovich
Next up is Maybury on the Mississippi Coast:
Bay violated open meetings law ~ Seacoast Echo
The sentence for this violation is 40 lashes with a wet noodle.
Next up is developer Jim MacPhaille and the old Second Street Elementary School Continue reading “Wednesday links”