January 22, 2016
On Thursday night January 21, 2016, Mrs. Sam Atkinson held a 2 hour training session with the Bay St. Louis Administration (Mayor), City Council and a handful of Bay St. Louis city employees. It was so artfully done, that there were very few questions that had to be asked of Mrs. Atkinson by the officials. The public was allowed to attend the meeting as observers only, and no comments were allowed from the observers, in an effort to maintain the training atmosphere rather than distractive rhetoric which was a good idea. You could tell that Mrs Atkinson was well versed in her field and that we all; employees, elected officials and citizens alike, could learn a lot from her expertise. I later reviewed my own notes and then listened to the tape of the session again. There were three things that seemed to primarily target the City Council:
1. The proper development of the council meeting agendas,
2. The documentation of council actions through accurate minutes, and
3. The approval of the payment of the city’s bills (Docket of Claims) through an orderly procedural chain.
Mrs. Atkinson stated firmly that there was great liability facing the Council Members if their procedures in paying the bills did not follow clear policies and procedures of verification. Verification that the bills were paid in the order they were received, that the bills were separated by docket numbers, properly dated, and subsequently logged into a docket book. She also stated that it was illegal for the Administration to hinder the Council from receiving requested information or the originals of those invoices, because it could make them vulnerable to liability. Then she said something astounding: Misspending of the public’s funds could require replacement of those funds to the public by use of the bonds of the officials that did not do their part to protect those public trust funds…. and (here is the key):
LOSS OF BOND EQUALS LOSS OF OFFICE.
Mrs Atkinson also stated several things that were actually against the law, or you could say “illegal”:
1. The Administration not presenting documentation to the Council when requested.
2. Transfer of funds without the approval of the Council.
3. Spending funds outside the budget
4. Co-mingling of designated funds and several others things that space does not allow me expand upon in this post.
I have attended the Council meetings consistently for at least six years, and have heard the Council repeatedly ask, demand, beg, and downright grovel (in my opinion) before this administration for dated original invoices in time before the meetings so that they could be sure what they were actually paying on the docket, only to be put off meeting after meeting. It has been an embarrassing display of disrespect to the Council by the Administration. All of these problems could have been avoided, had the Administration simply complied with the law. Continue reading “Other Voices | Libby Garcia: OSA Performance Audit Division educating Bay St Louis City Officials – A grim reality”