The Gillon Group
recently released its audit of the city of
Natchez's 2012-2013 fiscal year, highlighting the
abysmal mess in the city's bookkeeping and finances.
Oxfam reports that the richest one
percent of people in the world own 48 percent of the world's wealth.
The Miss-Lou’s breaking news:
While Southwest Mississippi's counties have
experienced job losses, Concordia, Catahoula and Tensas parishes have enjoyed an increase in the number of
workers available and an increase in the number of jobs. (19 more news
The Advice Goddess:
She had an amazing first date with
this guy: dinner, a movie, a stroll around the park, and a passionate
good-night kiss. That was two weeks ago.
Terry Savage on money:
Is your IRA invested in stocks, bonds,
mutual funds, and ETFs? Or have you decided to spread your investment
horizons a bit, and include some "non-traditional" IRA investments?
McAllister on health:
Rallie says, "I truly miss my mother,
who died 18 months ago, at age 90. She was the quintessential Catholic
mother and an expert at guilt."
Thomas Sowell thinking clearly:
The current controversy over whether parents should be forced to have their
children vaccinated for measles is one of the painful signs of our times.
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Tourists and pilgrims welcome:
The weather is snowy and cold up
north. Visit Natchez-Vidalia and enjoy Southern hospitality. The temps here
are in the 50s and 60s!
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commentary by Michele Malkin and Charlie Mitchell on
Bryant making good on pledge
by Charlie Mitchell
the aftermath of prison kickback arrests, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant is
keeping his pledge to seek tighter controls.
bills passed the Senate unanimously last week, wining immediate praise from
Bryant. One would remove leasing prison farmland from Mississippi Department
of Corrections control and the other would move the Inmate Welfare Fund
(proceeds from canteen sales) away from MDOC and to the state treasurer.
Both were under the guidance of Sen. Sean Tindell, R-Gulfport.
Also alive in the Legislature after the initial
round of deadlines are three bills — two in the Senate and one in the House
— that would impose more accountability for no-bid and single-source
Christopher Epps and Cecil McCrory were indicted on
about 50 federal kickback and bribery counts involving about $1 million in
Epps was a 20-year MDOC employee before being named
commissioner in 2002. McCrory is a
County businessman who
served eight years (1988-1996) in the state House of Representatives.
Both men have entered pleas of innocent and trials
are pending. The charges sting in lots of ways.
Epps, who resigned immediately before the
indictments were made public, was a popular figure in the corrections world,
having served as president of the American Corrections Association. He was
quoted in TIME magazine and on the “CBS Evening News” as an expert. He was
seen as a reformer in a prison system being sued over inhumane conditions
and one for which the Legislature grapples with surging costs year after
For him to be accused as a calculating thief —
engaging in wholesale banditry for seven years while managing the
incarceration of others for the same crimes — made Mississippi out in the
national eye to be, again, a backwater where public corruption is as common
County, McCrory was a
member of the local school board, a position he also resigned before being
taken into custody. So a prison “leader” and an education “leader” face
charges of robbing the public till.
Epps was tapped for the top job by former Gov.
Ronnie Musgrove, retained through the two terms of Haley Barbour and, most
recently, by Bryant. It never looks good for the home team when an appointee
is on TV doing a perp walk. It must have really miffed Bryant, a former
deputy sheriff and state auditor of public accounts.
As auditor, Gov. Bryant was tasked for eight years
with monitoring the spending practices of state and county entities. After
the arrests, he took executive actions and called on the Legislature to do
Big changes are in two Senate
bills (2400 and 2553) and one House bill (825) that were sent to the
Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency committees in both chambers. The
bills list the committee
chairs (Sen. Nancy
Collins, R-Tupelo and Rep. Jerry Turner, R-Baldwyn) as authors, which augurs
well for their success. They call forward Sections 25-9-120 and 31-7-13 and
total 370 typewritten pages overall.
Rather than get down in the weeds, let’s just say
this: The accusations against Epps and McCrory would indicate too much
public money was being spent with too little (or no) checks and balances.
A common practice in public purchases is to declare
a seller of goods and services a “single source.” It’s often true. It also
avoids taking bids.
Also ripe for abuse are other no-bid and consulting
contracts that can be awarded for thousands and even millions of dollars on
nothing more than the desire of a public official to make a deal. This power
gives a state agency head more leeway and less accountability than the King of Prussia.
The legislation inserts more backstops, hoops and
controls. The process is changed so that more eyes outside an agency are on
each step during and after. “Silos” of control are broken up.
So a question arises: If these reforms were passed
long, long ago, would we be living in a state without bribery or kickbacks
today? And here’s the answer: Of course not.
A person or people intent on stealing, a person
willing to betray the public trust will find a way. It doesn’t matter
whether the “don’t steal” law is 10 pages long or 10,000.
So why bother? Just as it helps a bank to have a
more substantial vault, it helps the public to have mechanisms designed to
detect and perhaps thwart incidents or patterns of theft.
Epps and McCrory will have their day in court,
eventually. In the meantime, the governor is doing what he said needed
doing. That’s a good thing.
Charlie Mitchell is a Mississippi journalist. Write to him at