For those wondering about the Sun Herald-DMR Public Records case…

The Sun Herald found no joy at the Court of Appeals, which reversed Chancellor Schloegel. As of September 2, it was Writ time at the Mississippi Supreme Court, which has not yet ruled whether or not they will be taking the case. Click below to get the 13 page Writ filed earlier this month:

Auditor v Gulf Publishing Writ of Certiorari

Auditor v Gulf Publishing Writ of Certiorari

A Place Apart: A Meltdown in Super slow Mo….

There are again rumors swirling about regarding more major transparency problems at Bay City Hall to go with a local business being harassed earlier this week by city employee Jerry Beaugez, who slapped a C&D on an eatery that was repairing an awing after this past week’s major rain event.

Contrary to what Hizzoner and his advisers must be thinking, dragging this out and retaliating against businesses owned by people that he perceives as his critics will make things even worse over time, not better as does stonewalling Public Records Requests.

Lana Noonan reported to Slabbed New Media after last night’s workshop that Mayor Fillingame’s major reason for moving the City Council Chambers is that “information is flowing out of the Council Chambers and that has to stop”. The arrogance is astounding.

Stonewall: Fillingame Administration refuses to separate co-mingled funds plus information withheld from the City Council

I guess the low light of the night for me was early on seeing new City Clerk Robert Clark bullshit the City Council on why the Administration will not let the City Council review the original invoices of the claims on the docket they are being asked to approve in advance of the meeting. First, he termed himself “an auditor” despite the fact he lacks the credential to issue an audit opinion and then he told the City Council he could not walk the invoices from the finance office across the street to the City Council annex without getting in trouble with his auditors for not having all of the original invoices, the false assumption underlying this line of reasoning being that his invoices will automatically sprout legs and walk off if he brings them to the City Council Chambers in advance of the meeting for the Council to review. It was pathetic.

But since Clark, who according to Mayor Fillingame worked for a few years at Alexander and Van Loon before spending a few years at Hancock Bank brought up yellow book audits, I figure Slabbed can dispel this myth since your correspondent actually possesses the proper credential to render an audit opinion in the State of Mississippi.

When Jennifer Bell, the City’s auditor, pulls her triple-purpose non-payroll disbursement test (i.e. transactional and compliance testing of the claims dockets), she will require the City furnish the backup documentation to the items she selects for testing (most auditors myself included use a random number generator for sample selection purposes so the results can be statistically analyzed). Copies of possessed original invoices are not an acceptable form of audit evidence for most auditors, myself included, except in very limited circumstances. Auditing Standards Codified, Section 500 explains:

Audit evidence provided by original documents is more reliable than audit evidence provided by photocopies, facsimiles, or documents that have been filmed, digitized, or otherwise transformed into electronic form, the reliability of which may depend on the controls over their preparation and maintenance.

And so at the end of the day, Clark is asking to the City Council to accept a lesser form of documentary evidence to rely on in their vote to approve the claims docket than they give their own auditors for use in supporting their opinion on the financial statements and this despite the fact that in Mississippi personal liability attaches to the Councilmen that approve illegal claims but this is how about 10 minutes of last night’s meeting was spent by the administration, bullshitting the council on why they cant get access to original City records. It was a pathetic display by Mayor’s new City Clerk. They all strongly appear to be hiding something(s) which I guess is why both OSA and DOJ Investigators are now at City Hall.

Towards the end of that part of the meeting I began broadcasting the first Public Comment Section of the night. It took on an Alice in Wonderland quality when a member of the public scolded the City Council for expecting to see original invoices. There is no doubt Joan Coleman is a strong supporter of Mayor Fillingame. It just would be nice if she possessed all the facts before chewing out the council or other members of the public (more on that in a bit). What I’ll do is embed the Video multiple times at different time sequences. I encourage everyone to feel free to watch all 19 plus minutes, which ended abruptly when some kinda of technical glitch kicked me off Periscope. First up the beginning with the last of the discussion on the council’s inability to access the original claims invoices for review prior to voting: Continue reading “Stonewall: Fillingame Administration refuses to separate co-mingled funds plus information withheld from the City Council”

Mississippi Ethics Commission finds that the City of Bay St Louis violated the Mississippi Public Records Act

On June 5, 2015 the Mississippi Ethics Commission cited the City of Bay St Louis for failure to comply with the Mississippi Public Record law set forth in authority section 25-61-1 et seq of the Mississippi Code (1972).

The City’s response to the Ethics complaint, lodged by Ron Thorpe of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government claimed the City’s response to the Thorpe PRR was “proper complete and adequate”. However, the Mississippi Public Records statute is very clear that public records requests must be be produced seven days after receipt of the request for production or within fourteen days provided certain notification protocols are utilized. Bay St Louis City Clerk Katherine Smith failed to produce the records within the 14 day time frame, belatedly producing the requested records after Mr. Thorpe was compelled to file an ethics complaint on the matter.

Several members of the public have complained to Slabbed New Media regarding the City of Bay St Louis openly flouting compliance with the Mississippi Public records law as well as in public comments to the City Council. These compliance problems coincide with the exposure of the financial crisis that gripped the City in 2014, when it was forced to refinance its Water and Sewer Bonds or face default. Bay St Louis Mayor Les Fillingame had previously steadfastly maintained the City was solvent despite the imminent default, which was averted with the refinancing of the bonds at a cost to the taxpayers of over $150,000.

Finally, sources familiar with the operations of the State Auditor’s office indicate to Slabbed New Media that an investigation has been opened into certain of the City’s financial practices, including the issuance of $500,000 of debt without any apparent statutory authority that was used to pay past due bills owed to the Hancock County Utility Authority dating to the 2013 fiscal year.

Those wishing to see the final order should click below to obtain the two page pdf.

BSL Ethics Opinion

BSL Ethics Opinion

Guest Post: How Long Does Transparency Take in Hancock County???

On November 19, 2013, the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government appeared before the Hancock County Board of Supervisors and requested they put their Minutes and Dockets online as part of their website for the general public to view,especially since their meetings are at 9:00am when the vast majority of folks are out trying to make a living.

It is interesting that they have upgraded their site somewhat to include Agendas and Dockets although not completely up to date. But there are no Board minutes. Folks, that is where the business of the taxpayers is taken care of—where you can read who made what motion, how your elected officials voted, who missed meetings etc. That is the meat and potatoes of the public’s business.

The “chatter” throughout the County about how secretive some of their “business” has been conducted bears out in one glaring example:

In their February 7, 2011 minutes the Board of Supervisors actually voted over the telephone, which is in direct violation of the Mississippi Open Meetings Law. There is no provision in the Open Meetings Law for telephone polling– only telephone conferences of which the public must be informed in advance. The Alliance for Good Government was given a “tip” on this. When we inquired about it, Mrs. Lisa Cowand Board President, emphatically denied it. So we appeared at their office unannounced and obtained a copy of the minutes revealing the truth about their actions.

The February 7, 2011, telephone poll was for a resolution on Tourism Legislation. Now, what could have been so secretive about that? We’ll never know because the public was deprived of hearing their representatives deliberate the issue in front of the public they represent and who pays their salaries.

Those voting in secret over the telephone were:
David Yarborough—Yes
Roderick Pullman—-Yes
Lisa Cowand———Yes
Steve Seymour——Yes
Tony Wayne Ladner-Yes

This is only one example of how they have no conscience about handling the Public’s business in secret. And 3 of them are running for Re-Election this year—Yarborough—Cowand—Ladner.

This is the 15th year of the 21st Century—IT IS PAST TIME FOR TRANSPARENCY IN GOVERNMENT IN HANCOCK COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI!

Lana Noonan, Chairman
Hancock County Alliance for Good Government

What is Singing River Health System and the Jackson County Board of Supervisors Hiding? A comment bump

Singing River Health System has refused to release a financial accounting of its employee pension fund, even though its own annual audit says the records are available to the public on request.

On March 9, the Sun Herald made such a request. We asked for retirement-plan financial statements from 2006 to 2014, except the year 2010-2011 because the newspaper found that statement online.

As the Sun Herald’s Anita Lee reported, without all of those records it is impossible to say how investments might have affected the retirement plan.

For months now the holy grail of reporting on the Singing River Health System disaster lay in the well rumored sweetheart related party transactions between insiders at the Health System, the Health System itself and the defined benefit pension plan the Hospital’s Board of Trustees voted in secret to terminate last November. SRHS has fought any public disclosure of its finances tooth and nail preferring instead to launch a legal jihad to remove Chancellor Harris from the related state litigation filed by retirees desperate to save the financial results of life’s work for the system.

Slabbed has documented previously undisclosed related party transactions involving the former Board of Trustee Attorney, his family and the health system. Slabbed’s commenters have uncovered even more related party transactions involving the Health System and its former Legal Services director. My guess is these limited disclosures barely scratch the surface of the cronyism that is at the heart of the SRHS financial meltdown.

So what is SRHS hiding in the pension’s financial records that Anita Lee seeks? Nunn Yabidnez posited a theory a few days ago on these pages that matches a rumor that has been circulating for a little while now and this theory is well worth exploring in the absence of any information from the Pension Plan:

Here’s a possible theory for a lot of the SRHS pension problems. I don’t claim it as fact, but the dates and the “what is known,” combined with the various external situations, tend to fit. Remember, it’s just a theory.

Some background:
One way to “benefit” from pension management is to invest the funds in places that will make a reasonable income for the fund, but also cut the management in for a taste via “commission sharing” from brokers, investing in “sweetheart” deals with “friends” and doing so via what appears to be a legit broker/manager (see FiduciaryVest). There are even ways to pull equity market manipulations. And as long as things stay fair-to-middlin’ and nobody gets too stupid or greedy, things could rock along with no one ever being the wiser. However, if one or more of the “covering factors” go south, things can get bad in a hurry, esp. if the fund is stretched too thin on “friends helping friends” deals that depended on an up market. So, what does that have to do with SRHS?

That said, here’s a maybe: Continue reading “What is Singing River Health System and the Jackson County Board of Supervisors Hiding? A comment bump”

Follow the money from 1983 on………

Mainly because I bet the double dealing between SRHS insiders and its pension trust dates back all the way to its inception. Looks like Anita and the commenting community here are on the right track:

Risky business? SRHS retirement plan invested in high-risk, high-fee funds, expert says ~ Anita Lee

And I have this blurb from yesterday’s Sun Herald Op-Ed:

That would end the habit SRHS officials have of treating employees like children, telling them only what they think they should know and deciding when they should know it.

When it comes to transparency in government down here on the coast, the governments that do not treat their taxpayers like children would be the exception rather than the rule:

SUN HERALD | Editorial: Trustees of SRHS demonstrate need for transparency

Meantime last week Kingfish had the Mississippi Hospital Association’s 990 last week while Wayne Weidie opines that the SRHS Cancer of Disgrace has spread from Jackson County to Jackson and the Capitol.

Mississippi Miscellany: Singing River Health System desperate to get Chancellor Harris off the case plus all hell is breaking loose

Before I get started with some links how about a nice picture from yesterday’s retiree protest at Ocean Springs Hospital:

Image courtesy of a reader | 2-26-15 SRHS Retiree Ocean Springs Hospital Protest
Image courtesy of a reader | 2-26-15 SRHS Retiree Ocean Springs Hospital Protest

It appears the lawyers representing the pension plan, finding no joy on their manufactured recusal motion here on the coast expects the State Supreme Court to stop next weeks hearings on the retiree suits:

SRHS wants hearings stopped in pension cases ~ Anita Lee

They are doing this to avoid having to produce documents that would help everyone get to the bottom of things. You wonder what kind of skeletons are buried in those docs as I am reminded of something I wrote last month:

By their actions SRHS has demonstrated a preference for keeping a law firm with major conflict questions involved in the pension litigation and using that firm’s support of Judge Harris’ opponent in last year’s election as a lever to force Harris off the case. The heart of the Harris recusal motion is predicated on that fact. Remove Dogan & Wilkerson from the equation and the Harris recusal motion they filed goes up in smoke. Simply put, the powers running SRHS must fear Judge Neil Harris more than they do their own legal conflicts. The implications of that fact are stunning and foretell a tale of major muck still being hidden.

Once those documents are produced, my prediction is the SRHS pension plan’s law firm, Dogan and Wilkinson will not be long remaining on the case.

Next up:

Jackson County, SRHS leaders to get together over finances, pension

So now we have Jackson County spending big money on the Laporte CPA firm while SRHS spends big money on their own actuary.  The price of getting religion at SRHS sure is steep folks.

In other news the fallout from Supervisor William Martin’s indictment and suicide continues.  I have been told by sources in Jackson that the Martin indictment is related to the MDOC corruption probe.  The timing of former MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps guilty plea and the Martin indictment are not coincidental in my opinion.

And this brings me to the continuing HCUA/Sean Anthony corruption investigation Continue reading “Mississippi Miscellany: Singing River Health System desperate to get Chancellor Harris off the case plus all hell is breaking loose”

Early photos of the SRHS retiree protest at the Mississippi Capitol

And it looks like the gang is finding they have support in the legislature for Senator Brice Wiggins’ Community Hospital Transparency bill.

Image courtesy of SRHS Hopes via Facebook
Image courtesy of SRHS Hopes via Facebook

Continue reading “Early photos of the SRHS retiree protest at the Mississippi Capitol”

Public Education: Why Johnny can’t read and a severe lack of transparency at BWSD dominates the local grapevine

The Clarion Ledger was on a tear over the weekend:

Education politics grow more absurd ~ Geoff Pender

Geoff, thanks for this article. What we are dealing with is an ELECTION YEAR. That is when any and everybody can get thrown under the bus, even the kids.

Educators sound off on Common Core, MAEP ~ Emily Le Coz

Loophole lets pedophiles get educator licenses ~ Emily Le Coz

Meantime for those that missed it a comment bump from Lana Noonan regarding a special meeting of the Bay Waveland School District’s Board of Trustees:

The Bay-Waveland School Board hit a home run again today in their efforts to operate under the same clandestine scenario that has become business as usual for them. At a special called meeting to interview potential architects for future projects, they chose to do so in Executive Session.

Now, currently, there is no provision in the Open Meetings Law in Miss. for discussing in Executive Session those professionals who will do contract work for a public entity, only the entity’s own personnel. In a effort to keep things clean, I reminded them of this, but Board Attorney Artigues, stated that this was a” special situation.” Really, after reading the Open Meetings Law, I could find no “special situations” that could be subjectively declared by a public Board or their attorney that would give permission to conduct the kind of business they did today. Continue reading “Public Education: Why Johnny can’t read and a severe lack of transparency at BWSD dominates the local grapevine”