Monday, January 26, 2015

Editorial: Dear Legislature: Say hell no to Butler Snow

 Update: Both bills died in committee today.  2-3-15.

State Senator Lydia Chassaniol (R-Butler Snow) filed two bills last week that would restrict the Open Meetings Act.  The Greenwood Commonwealth reported last week:

Both bills would redefine a “meeting” under the Open Meetings Act to apply only to those meetings at which at least a quorum of board members is present.

Senate Bill 2489 is even more explicit, specifying that a meeting “does not include serial assemblages of less than a quorum of members.”..... ( Earlier post. )
 Tom Hood, the executive director of the Mississippi Ethics Commission, the body charged with enforcing the Open Meetings Act, said the Ethics Commission and the state’s courts have repeatedly deemed such practices, called a “rolling quorum,” as illegal under the state’s sunshine laws.

Chassaniol’s bills, Hood said, would make it far easier for boards to hold critical discussions or debate public policy without giving members of the public and the press a chance to be present....
The bill was apparently filed in retaliation for the Ethics Commission finding the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors in violation of the Open Meetings Act.  The supervisors issued bonds in 2013 to pay for various projects.  Groups of supervisors that were smaller than a quorum met with the county administrator, the board attorney, and the financial consultant.  All groups met on the same day and the total groups included all supervisors.  The subject of the meetings was the sale of the bonds.  The bond issue was placed on the agenda for a meeting and the supervisors voted to issue $14 million in bonds.   The board hired Butler Snow for representation before the commission. The board also voted to appeal the decision.

The commission ruled that the practice of using a "piecemeal quorum" was illegal and a violation of the Open Meetings Act.  The commission ruled:

On March 26, 2013, the bond consultant met with four supervisors, a quorum of the board. The consultant first met with two supervisors and then separately met with another two supervisors but discussed the same topic with all four supervisors. Although the board intended to comply with the law, these two separate meetings circumvented the Open Meetings Act by avoiding a physical gathering of a quorum at the same place at the same time. However, the consultant met with all four supervisors about the same matter, a matter under the authority of the Board. Those gatherings involved the “deliberative stages of the decision-making process that lead to formation and determination of public policy” regarding the subsequent bond issue. Those gatherings collectively constitute a “meeting” of the Board within the meaning of the Act. These private gatherings were clearly intended to exclude the public from the deliberations by the board members about a matter of public concern. Those deliberations should have only occurred at a properly noticed public meeting of the Board.
Legislative sources told JJ that Butler Snow was the prime  mover behind these two bills.  Butler Snow seems to think it can get these bills passed when Mississippi's public corruption and weak ethics laws are in the spotlight.  The Ethics Commission also issued similar rulings against Yazoo City and the city of Columbus as well .  The mayors of both cities contacted members of their respective city councils/board of aldermen to discuss specific items to avoid meeting the requirements of the Open Meetings Act.  The legislature should say hell no to Butler Snow and kick these attempts to weaken good government laws out of the capitol back to Lauderdale, Columbus, and Yazoo where they belong.


Anonymous said...

KF - Forgive my ignorance but what does the BS firm care about whether there are open meeting laws? Why is it your view that this is their agenda?

For the record, I fully support the open meeting laws currently on the books and would oppose an attempt to restrict that.

Anonymous said...

The bill was filed by Chas at the request of Jeff Turnage, attorney for the Columbus City Council and Mayor after they were cited for a rolling violation. There was a story in the Commercial Dispatch wherein Turnage admitted he solicited the bill filing.

Kingfish said...

He's involved as well. Am surprised he didn't get Jeff Smith to carry water on this one.

Anonymous said...

Let's ask our Mississippi Lord and Saviour Haley Barbour what we should do. He knows what is best for us!

Anonymous said...

Hope the ethics commission dusts off their research on executive sessions, since this ruling is going to drive up their use and/or mis-use.

Kingfish said...

Columbus Dispatch story on Columbus's involvement in bill.


Anonymous said...

Smith is involved. Other Lowndes reps and sens refused to help.

Kingfish said...

Smith carried Butler Snow's water on weakening the law on governments entering into contribution agreements as well.

Kingfish said...

And a two-bit prosecutor from a small town in Mississippi wouldn't have the juice to get that law changed even with her help. And he would know it.

Anonymous said...

Wonder if Jeff Smith is going to give the Speaker another custom suit this year so all the lobbyist can have another good laugh.

Anonymous said...

Follow the money.

Anonymous said...

Turnage is not a prosecutor, much less a "two bit" one.

He's the city attorney. His firm is locally prominent with offices in Tupelo and Columbus.

Kingfish said...

I'm sorry. I meant to write "two-bit city attorney".

Anonymous said...

Do you think that this is going to go through?

Is there anything to be done about it?

anon on this one said...

Why does it matter to Butler Snow?

I dunno, just politics I guess.

Anonymous said...

Turnage is Lydia Chassaniol's cousin!

Anonymous said...

Good guayd...politics is not for the pure of heart. I guess that is why Hayley and his ilk are so successful.

Anonymous said...

Top contributors to Lydia Chassaniol's campaign in 2011

1. Mississippi Bankers Association $4,000

2. Mississippi Physicians Association $3,000

3. Friends Of Tate Reeves $2,500

4. Home Builders Association Of Mississippi $2,000

5. Mississippi Association Of Realtors $2,000

Anonymous said...

Turnage is Lydia Chassaniol's cousin!

Only in Mississippi!!!

Anonymous said...

Not much more can be said here, but if there are questions just direct them to Butler Snows staff at the Capitol who leave their lobbying jobs just for the session to work for Tate and Gunn. How did this happen??

The Truth-in-Booze Squad said...

Well, well, well. Drinkin', Drivin', Do-You-Know-Who-I-Am? Johnny Horhn wants to establish a Mississippi State Truth Commission.

SECTION 3. (3) The commission, any member of the commission or any employee designated by the commission may issue and enforce a subpoena and a subpoena duces tecum, administer oaths and examine persons under oath in accordance with civil laws and rules.

The same Senator Horhn who did everything he could to stop JPD from releasing any information about his drunk driving exploits.

Anonymous said...

These gold plated Jackson law firms are too much a part of the county control of the legislature. They make a living off white collar criminal defense for all of these local government parasites. At some point the business lobby will propose the consolidation of counties and we will have a modern administrative model for local government. The whole of England has but 50 county councils. Why do we need over 80?

Anonymous said...

The same system that whitey built to keep the black man down is now used by establishment whiteys, er, Republicans to keep the rest of Mississippi down.

Anonymous said...

I suspect and certainly hope that there's more than a little anger on the part of many of the partners at Butler Snow that one of their fellow partners missed the memo that practicing law well means you sometimes have to explain to a client why you can't do what he or she wants you to do.

Those partners are very concerned about how their clients are going to react to this.

I have seen more than a few law firms end up ridding themselves of those who get too overly involved in politics so as to lose their perspective and ridding themselves of those with personal or family " issues".

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).

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In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.

In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

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Note: Security provided by INS.

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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

Note: Security provided by INS