Thursday, February 23, 2017

What is going on at the Pinelands?

A rather intriguing public records fight is currently taking place in Rankin County Chancery Court over the Pinelands Public Improvement District.  The district covers the area surrounding the Hugh Ward Parkway in Rankin County.  The district sold bonds for $7.125 million to finance improvements.  The Pinebrook Homeowner's Association and several homeowners filed a lawsuit to obtain district records in November after the district did not respond to several public records requests.  The lawsuit states:

5. On July 27, 2016 and again on October 20, 2016, the Plaintiff made a written request for a copy of the Defendant's copies of the minutes of all Board meetings for FY 2012, FY 2013, FY 2104, FY 2015, and FY 2016 which are maintained under Section 19-31-9.6 of the Miss. Code Ann. including all minutes relating to the hiring and compensation of a district manager and treasurer.

6.On July 27, 2016 and again on October 20, 2016, the Plaintiff made a written request for a copy of the Defendant's copies of annual audits for 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 pursuant to Miss Code Ann. §19-31-11 requiring financial records be annually audited by an independent CPA.

7. On July 27, 2016 and again on October 20, 2016, the Plaintiff made a written request for a copy of the Defendant's copies of annual remittance reports received from governmental agency, county and/or municipalities with which the PID has contributions agreements.

8. On July 27, 2016 and again on October 20, 2016, the Plaintiff made a written request for a copy of the Defendant's copies of transaction detail reports for 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 for all accounts.

They also asked for bank statements, correspondence between board members and vendors, and other various records.

The complaint alleges that the district did not even acknowledge or even deny the request.  Attorney Mel Coxwell represents the plaintiffs.  The case is assigned to Chancellor John McLaurin.

The defendant did not cave in at the first sight of a lawsuit but ran over to our old friends at Copeland Cook Taylor & Bush.  Pinelands filed an answer with no less than 36 defenses to the public records lawsuit (Not even Lord Snow got that creative for Mattiace).  Some of the defenses are:

some or all of the Plaintiffs’ claims should  be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, for among other reasons, Plaintiff cannot prove that Defendant is subject to the Mississippi Public Records Act. (KF note: PID's are created by state law.  They are public bodies.  The governing law is Section 19-31 of the Mississippi Code.)

 Some or all of the Plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed as such claims are barred by the applicable statute of limitations and/or the doctrine of laches. (KF note: There is no statute of limitations for public records requests.)

Plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed because of Plaintiffs’ lack of standing (KF: Anyone can ask for a public record and sue for one if denied.  Defendants will be hard pressed to find a precedent that supports this notion.).

To the extent that Plaintiffs may have been damaged, the damages were proximately caused in whole or in part by their own comparative negligence. (KF: negligence in filing a public records request? That is a new one.)

While denying that the Plaintiffs can establish that Defendant is subject to the Public Records Act, Defendant affirmatively pleads that Plaintiffs have failed to comply with the Public Records Act in their requests. (KF: How?)

The response that states several defenses on the matter of punitive damages even though the plaintiffs only asked for the court to award court costs and attorney's fees.  One must ask if Copeland Cook was filing a good-faith defense on behalf of its client or if it was instead trying to run up the bill.


Anonymous said...

This is interesting considering the people on the board of directors. Could it be that Hugh Ward is ungodly rough at the moment and they haven't fixed it? Could it have to do with that walking track and the fact they decided to sod it in the middle of a drought and then it became winter? Could it be they sold some land to one of their cronies who is trying to ram a multi family housing project down the existing homeowners throats? Or add more houses and people to an already crowded section of town? Is a certain developer possible involved in this(Allman)? One would love to find out the motive? I tend to think it has to be with Allmans development that backs up to Bella Ridge and consumes that whole corner off Wirtz, to Hugh Ward, to the south side of Farmington Station.

Anonymous said...

One of the plaintiffs, McDill, was the "statutory compliance officer" on the PID Board, he quit the board without notice while in possession of several of the documents he now requests in his suit. All request for information were sent to Attorney David Morrow who didn't respond to the FOI requests and the Board knew nothing if the requests until the lawsuit was served.

Anonymous said...

Curious. What ever happened to the people who invested in the pinelands like 15 ys ago. I remember several friends being approached to "buy into" the pinelands at 10-15k.

Anonymous said...

He quit because of the embezzling going on. He raised the suit because it was the right thing to do. Wish more people like him existed.

Anonymous said...

The same 3 people have Madison/Lakeland Diversified Investment Property LLC. The Prospectus dated 8/2002 and the managing partners have discontinued communicating with the investors in that project. They are not to be trusted

Anonymous said...

I don't know what is going on, but a year ago they had floods in Pinebrook. One of the plaintiffs here was named in the article about the floods. Major drainage problems. And, yes, they call that the Hugh Ward Rollercoaster. Crappy roads built by developers in another special deal. Maybe they are asking for government over regulation of the wonderful private sector that does everything so perfectly. Highly intrusive stuff like, "What did you do with the $7 million dollars?"

Anonymous said...

2:17 there have never been allegations of embezzlement. The PID accountant writes two checks a month... landscaping and water bill for the landscaping. Put up some facts or even credible allegations and let's go from there.. McDill was responsible for the audits and making sure the PID was abiding by state laws.. he didn't do his job, then quit, then requested and sued for the very same information he knew was unavailable because HE didn't do his job.

Anonymous said...

Basically there is around $200,000 was wired offshore from the Pinelands bank account and then the board members switched banks all of the sudden. People in the area are aware of this and are just trying to get to the bottom of it with records requests. Maybe some jail time would help get the records released?

Anonymous said...

Who moves money through Nigeria other than gun runners and the CIA?

Anonymous said...

Same crew they are giving the Jackson airport to.

Anonymous said...

"Who moves money through Nigeria other than gun runners and the CIA? "

That nice prince there who keeps emailing about giving me some of his embezzled money.

Anonymous said...

The Rankin County Supervisors approved the PID, you should check and see who those men were?

Anonymous said...

Same crew that got control of the airport right?

Anonymous said...

McDill is the good guy in this fiasco. Their conspiracy started prior to him becoming a board member. I'm guessing it took him a while to figure out what was going on as the existing board members were pretty secretive. Any respectable bunch would have at least posted minutes for the public to read. Especially since the PID is paid as a tax with property taxes.

Pappy Odaniel said...

Public Improvement Districts are out of control in Rankin County...probably elsewhere in the state as well. I believe Lost Rabbit was a PID at one point as well. They are basically a method to finance developers projects with zero risk to the developer itself and enormous risk to the county and the future home and business owners. They use the PID as a pseudo-governmental body and then issue bonds in the name of that body to fund all of their development. None of the PIDs in Rankin County are providing their continuing disclosure requirements required by state law and the SEC. They have very little requirements under state law and meet none of them and when you attempt to address these issues with the state or county they just shrug their shoulders and don't know what to do with these zombie districts. But good for the Pinelands people because this needs to end.

Anonymous said...

Can someone please post the names of the current Pinelands Board Members?

Seems like it would be easy to know who is in charge of your money but they have made this information difficult to find. I've been told that Candy Hutchison is the President.

Anonymous said...

4:18, 170k was fraudulently transferred out of the PID accounts by Hancock Bank to South Africa. Board members discovered the fraudulently transfers and immediately contacted and met with Rankin Sheriff, FBI, Flowood PD, ICE and every other agency that wanted to meet or could be contacted. Again the BOARD members immediately did this. Ultimately and arrest was made in New Jersey of an individual who was involved in the hacking scheme. The PID then contacted, at McDills insistence, McDills son who is an attorney to sue Hancock Bank for transferring the money without proper authorization. The aside from attorneys fees the PID got most of their money back in a confidential settlement with Hancock. Nothing to see here folks, no money unaccounted for.

McDill who was in charge of the documents he now seeks abruptly quit the Board and then within weeks sent a FOI request for the same information he was in charge of compiling.. can someone explain that?

Pappy Odaniel said...

@6:18...whether it is McDill or whomever, why did the PID not comply with a public records request? Does the PID produce any publicly available financial statements? Probably not, like the rest of the sham PIDs. Bottomline...they are not following their requirements for ongoing disclosure if this information is not readily provided.

Anonymous said...

Yes 6:18 am, I can explain it.
If you work for an organization compiling information, that is not your property, it is the organization's. You can get into trouble for stealing it. If you just verbally reveal the information, the organization can deny it. There's no proof. An FOI is a good way to bring to light what you think the public needs to know without the risk of having to prove you are a whistleblower and not a thief.

Anonymous said...

That Answer is not only frivolous (in part), it makes the attorneys whose names are on it look like idiots. I'd be ashamed to have my name on that pleading.

Anonymous said...

Attention Jackasses and Jillasses who don't know shit: PIDs in Rankin County are stand-alone entities. They do not function as a part of county government. And, most importantly, they ARE NOT OBLIGATIONS OF THE COUNTY IN ANY WAY. Unlike Lost Rabbit where Madison County left itself on the hook for the PID's failure, Rankin County has NO OBLIGATION WHATSOEVER for any failed Rankin County PID.

Anonymous said...

Then how are they PIDs?

Anonymous said...

PIDS are allowed by state law to help developers develop land and also to allow them to double dip. Homeowners pay for the development cost twice, once when buying their house or lot and then are assessed to pay back the bonds that financed the land improvements. Developers love them and the homeowners get screwed. Thank you local legislator. Counties do have to approve the PID. So blame your local Supervisor too.

Anonymous said...

How can an answer be frivolous? Sounds like something a scorned/broke plaintiff's attorney would say.

Anonymous said...

Barry Jackson
Pete Alman
Richard Partridge

Anonymous said...

How can an Answer be frivolous? Read Rule 11.Asserting defenses that have no basis in law or fact (such as, in a public records case, comparative fault, statute of limitations, accord and satisfaction, and about 10 to 15 others set forth in this Answer) is the very definition of frivolous. Yes, I am a plaintiffs' lawyer, but I am neither scorned nor broke. I am tired of the double standard that your comment evidences, whereby every plaintiffs' filing is labeled "frivolous" but then defendants such as here file things that are without basis in law or fact and get away with it. Frivolous filings should not be permitted from any party, and should be punished when they are filed.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure this is going to get much worse as the surrounding neighborhoods start up lawsuits. Criminal behavior or not there is negligence here and by not providing records they are welcoming the second phase of this. I commend Pinebrook for throwing resources at this but they should not go it alone.

Anonymous said...

Hate to cloud this thread with facts, but from the moment the Board found out about them FOI request, when served the lawsuit in January, they immediately started to provide requested information to the plaintiffs attorney. However the suit was filed and because the Board had insurance CCTB had to file an answer. Both sides are working to resolve this mere transfer of documents at the earliest date possible. Despite what the complaint says the Board members did not receive a FOI request in advance. Those request were sent in error to Attorney David Morrow who failed to notify the Board or act on them in a timely manner.

Anonymous said...

It is funny what 3 years of law school can do to a perfectly reasonable person's psyche.

You Were Swerving.. said...

So, there's more going on in Niknar than busting Mexicans on Interstate 20?

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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.

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This is definitely a Beaver production.

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