Political turmoil engulfs Bay St. Louis

Political turmoil engulfs Bay St. Louis
A preliminary audit revealed several shortcomings; including money taken from the harbor account incorrectly. (Photo source: WLOX)
A preliminary audit revealed several shortcomings; including money taken from the harbor account incorrectly. (Photo source: WLOX)

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Mayor Les Fillingame has his hands full these days, dealing with a council that doesn't see things his way.

The word from city council member Lonnie Falgout is that an audit doesn't help matters.

"We've had trouble with some of the audit findings, some of the ways we're paying bills, some of the ways the allocations have been laid out and put in reserve or not been put in reserve," Falgout explained.

The preliminary audit revealed several shortcomings — including money taken from the harbor account incorrectly, bills not being paid on time, meeting minutes not being signed, employee time cards not being filed correctly and accurate records not being kept. The mayor admits record keeping was sloppy at best.

"The city's records by way of the minutes and ordinances and all of the council's action have been kept very inappropriately and that's one area that we really need to work on," Fillingame said. "I think everybody. I think was all have to be accountable for that."

Some council members are concerned, including Falgout, who noted, "The biggest thing I see I think is transparency. We keep hearing that this is going to be transparent but every time we turn around we're having a problem and it's been an on-going problem in the two years and four months that I have been on this council."

You hear that word transparency a lot these days.

Council member Mike Favre, says "We need to have transparency and all and we need to find out how far behind we are on things and what we need to do to bring it up to date."

Another concern for him is that money from a police drug forfeiture fund is unaccounted for.

"That's a big thing. We could owe as much as $300,000 to that fund that we might have to re-pay to make that account whole. And I'm not sure where we'll find that money to do that," Favre explained.

There is no doubt there is some political disagreement, even tension between members of the city council and the mayor, but has that translated into concern for the citizens who actually live in the city of Bay St. Louis? The answer is yes for Carole and John McKellar.

"I think they need to get along to solve this problem together. I don't think that any sort of hard feelings or animosity will do the city any good," Carole said.

Daniel Wilson says he feels the same way.

"The purpose of an elected official is to cater to the people and their desires on what is good for the city itself. But personalities and conflicts is just part of human nature. That's part of life and we just learn to get over it. And if you're not pleased with it, you vote for somebody else, Wilson said.

Until that happens, if it does, Fillingame says it appears council members are trying to undermine the his administration. On the other hand, Falgout says the mayor's performance could be improved.

"I think he could do a lot better. I think he could try and mend this relationship by being helpful to us."

Jeff Harding is a longtime resident, and attends city council meetings on a regular basis. His take on the situation may be the most insightful.

"I think everybody is to blame. Everybody needs to get along and they really need to sit down and hash out what the issues are, because again, all it's doing is costing the taxpayers money and it's not doing any good for image of the city of Bay St. Louis," Harding said.

Speaking of that image, some of the other council members who spoke with WLOX News admit it's being tarnished by all the bickering. They're hoping that doesn't hurt the city in the long run when it comes to attracting new businesses and residents.

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