SH Anthony files suit against the Harrison Co. Utility Authority

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - It wasn't the work done by SH Anthony that led the Harrison County Utility Authority to end its contract on March 25th. As WLOX News reported, it was the revelation that the company purchased a car for the former executive director of the utility authority.

The board said the deal violated state ethics laws.

At Thursday's meeting, I asked board attorney Jim Simpson about SH Anthony's lawsuit.

"Of course, this is not public interrogation time. It's time for the public to comment, not for us to be questioned. I know that's been explained to you already. But still, yes, he has filed a lawsuit. He has served a copy on me and we're going to respond to it accordingly. Of course, beyond that, there's nothing I can say."

WLOX News began asking questions of the Utility Authority in early March after complaints about lift stations not being checked, even though the utility authority had paid SH Anthony for the work.

As part of that investigation, I filed a public records request for the lift station checks. State law requires a response within 14 working days. I asked about the records at Thursday's meeting.

Jim Simpson said the records have been ready for at least two weeks. I requested the public records eight weeks ago.

Simpson said, "I do know that we've had four or five public records requests recently for the same records. And it's an enormous amount of records. People don't realize what they are asking for. You say, 'Give me all you got.' You have no idea what you've got. And we deal with the first ones that come in. Some came from agencies that take some priority.  So we were buried with public records requests. We responded to all of them as fast as we could. Your records are there. You have them. They're public records, so there's nothing secret about them."

But in the records provided, there's not much information. Of the 33 pages, 26 are the contract agreement between the board and SH Anthony.

The documents 'did not' include the daily inspection records for the seven lift stations. Instead, the board turned over what it called a sample inspection list, without any information about when or if the lift stations were checked. They were blank.

In the lawsuit, SH Anthony is requesting the court to grant a preliminary injunction prohibiting the Harrison County Utility Authority from advertising or soliciting requests for proposals or contracting for services now provided by SH Anthony.

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