Friday, September 6, 2019

Time to Clear the Air

Time to clear the air about the Jackson Zoo.  It's no secret that Yours Truly sits on the Board of Directors for the Jackson Zoological Society.  The Society operates the Jackson Zoo.  A certain weekly newspaper primarily known for publishing wedding photos made some rather scurrilous allegations about the Board.

 It's been well-reported that former Executive Director Beth Poff resigned after it was discovered she misused state bond funds.  However, the Northside Sun said she "took one for the team" and went on to say the Board approved and went along with the misuse of state funds.  Well, it's time to report a little fact the Northside Sun knowingly omitted: The Kingfish blew the whistle on the Executive Director and reported the misuse of state funds to the State Auditor.  

It was at first difficult to understand how things worked on the Zoo Board.  Board members were required to sign a confidentiality agreement.  Important matters were divided up between the Finance and Executive Committees.  For example, the Executive Committee instead of the Board approved the budget.  The actual Board took less than a half a dozen votes between my joining the Board in March 2017 and August 2018 when the Executive Director resigned.

Yours truly attended the June 2018 Board meeting.  Someone mentioned the annual audit had been submitted to the Society.  The auditor presented his annual report to only the Finance Committee in May. I requested a copy of the audit.  An employee emailed it to me a few days later on June 22. Reporting on this website has taught me (the hard way) to read the auditor's notes in financial statements as that is where the "dirt" often is found.  Sure enough, there it was, buried in Note 15:


Upon performing compliance procedures, it was discovered that during the fiscal year 2017 the Zoo had spent $395,000 of these funds on operations.  This is not in compliance with the agreement with the Department of Finance and Administration.  The Zoo repaid the $395,000 to the Zoo Improvement Fund cash account in December 2017.
JJ has covered enough bond issues to know that spending bond funds on other than the stated purpose of the bonds is a big, yuge no-no.  The Kingfish talked to several people he respects over the weekend who are learned in such matters as well as legal counsel.   He notified the State Auditor on Monday morning, June 25, 2018:

Dear Mr. Pickering:

As you know, I am a member of the Board of Directors for the Jackson Zoological Society.  The Society has a lease to operate the Jackson Zoo for the City of Jackson.  As a Board member,  I have a fiduciary duty to inform you whenever I find instances of misspending of state funds by the employees of the Society. 

I attended the regular bi-monthly Board meeting on June 19, 2018 at the Jackson Zoo.  One person mentioned that the annual audit was complete.  I asked for a copy of the audit and received it Friday.  The Jackson Zoo received $1 million in state bond money in 2016 under the "state bond bill."   The money was to be used for a specific list of repairs and projects.  Note 15 of the audit states:

The Jackson Zoological Society entered into an agreement with the State of Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration to receive $1,000,000 in bond proceeds during fiscal 2016.  This bond is to be spent on construction, repair, renovations, replacement and improvement of buildings, facilities, exhibits, and infrastructure at the Zoo.  Upon performing compliance procedures, it was discovered that during the fiscal year 2017 the Zoo had spent $395,000 of these funds on operations.  This is not in compliance with the agreement with the Department of Finance and Administration.  The Zoo repaid the $395,000 to the Zoo Improvement Fund cash account in December 2017.

The Board did not approve this use of the bond proceeds.  The Board did not even have a vote on using these funds for operations.   The Jackson Zoo is in serious financial trouble.  The May 2018 financial statements show that the Zoo is operating at a $644,384 deficit.  The Executive Director informed the Board last week that the Zoo would miss its next payroll.  Thankfully a Board member provided a $15,000 loan on a 30 day note.  The Executive Director was probably scrambling to keep the Zoo afloat and dipped into the bond proceeds.  

Although such desperation is understandable, it is still my duty to inform you of whenever the misuse of state funds takes place.  
The audit and several financial statements were attached to the email.   The Kingfish spoke to Mr. Pickering about the audit's findings.  It was not yet known that the Executive Director improperly used state bond funds to shore up operations at the zoo for nine years.  
The State Auditor forwarded the report to the Department of Finance and Administration. DFA investigated and found the Executive Director used state bond funds as operational revenue for nine years. The annual audits revealed a pattern. The Executive Director dipped into the funds when operational revenues ran short, usually to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars.  The auditor would catch the improper transfer near the end of the year when reviewing the books.  The funds were returned to the bond fund only to be transferred back to operations a few months later.  Rinse, repeat, rinse - until The Kingfish blew the whistle.
 Oddly enough, such misuse of state bond funds is not illegal although it would be if it were municipal bond funds.  However, the misuse violates an agreement executed with DFA to receive the funds.   Such a violation gives DFA the right to demand immediate repayment.  DFA demanded repayment of $350,000. The city of Jackson repaid the funds.





Kingfish note:   The Director met with Mayor Tony Yarber in an attempt to get him to withdraw my nomination.   Any questions why she went to such trouble to keep someone off of the Board of a piddlin', little non-profit organization?  Mayor Yarber said on the radio that just made him more determined to make the appointment as it raised his suspicions.  

One further note: No evidence has been ever found that Ms. Poff personally profited from the use of any state bond funds.  I think she was just trying to keep the zoo afloat through any means necessary. The problem is by doing so, the financial condition of the Zoo was much worse when a reckoning finally came.  

As for the high-society newspaper, the Kingfish showed Northside Sun reporter Anthony Warren this email literally a year ago and explained it's contents to him, all for naught.  

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Checks and Balances - Good Job KF. A few other boards might could use you.

Anonymous said...

That the budget was sheltered from Board oversight by a committee does not pass the sniff test. Well done KF.

Anonymous said...

Odd organizational structure for a board, especially given the conditions of the zoo. Every member of that board better have an umbrella policy covering every single asset they own or ever plan to own. If not, they dumb.

Anonymous said...

Northside Sun = Fake News

Anonymous said...

Good point 10:22. The budget should be transparent to the board and attempts to deploy smoke and mirrors to prevent prying eyes reeks. The zoo leadership may have had good intentions and acted out of desperation but deceitful and dishonest behavior is not ok ESPECIALLY WITH TAXPAYER DOLLARS! Good job KF.

Anonymous said...

It's very difficult to be accountable when you're broke and the bills are still coming due. The temptation to "Rob Peter to pay Paul" will touch even the most responsible officials, black or white, republican or democrat, whatever. That's when hard tough decisions have to be made and you hope that people like KF are around to make them rather than postponing the inevitable. It's not as easy as it sounds...

Anonymous said...

Why didn't yall just take a sharpie and change the numbers?

Anonymous said...

Close the zoo! Why postpone the inevitable?

Anonymous said...

"For example, the Executive Committee instead of the Board approved the budget. The actual Board took less than a half a dozen votes between my joining the Board in March 2017 and August 2018 . . ."

To clarify, did the Executive Committee know that funds were being misappropriated? And did they intentionally conceal this information from the rest of the Board?

Anonymous said...

Was this a Sun editorial or news story? Truly hard to tell the difference with Wyatt and his underling Warren. They seem to have forgotten that they are here to provide said wedding photos and charity events and wish to be known for finding dirt and bringing people and entities down. Never let the facts stand in the way of a juicy story.

Kingfish said...

Editorial.

Anonymous said...

Move the zoo to LeFluers Bluff. It would MAKE $

Anonymous said...

Wyatt Emmerich is one of the sleaziest, smarmiest little Jiminy-Crickets around. His name-dropping, boring and tiresome mentions of his mechanical vehicles, etc. etc. ad nauseam, make it no surprise that he would pull such an oafish journalistic stunt. Journalist? Hardly. He owns a paper and a computer, and just plops out whatever is on his weenie little mind that week. He would not know a real fact if one bit him on his scrawny butt. I had a very, very bad experience dealing with that paper, and I won’t have one of the sorry rags in my house.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has had dealings with Anthony Warren regarding public record requests, let's just say that what he lacks in acumen, he makes up for in willful ignorance. Not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.

Kingfish said...

Wyatt was bragging about his scoop today.

Anonymous said...

Well, Wyatt brags the way other people breathe, KF. And that puppet editor of his, the horrendous Jimmye Sweat, bless her aging old heart, has had one too many eye-lifts...her poor brain has been sucked right out her ears. She looks like a cartoon, and “edits” like one, as well.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the board members have Directors and Officers insurance.

Spread love said...

I’ve enjoyed reading this gossip blog but will no longer be clicking on it. The comment that was posted about my friend Jimmye Sweat is just hateful and untrue. Let’s all spread love. Not hate. If you want to say something hateful, sign your real name.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for setting the record straight KF.

Free Speech, Hurrah! said...

Oh, so nice to meet you, Spread Love! Which is, I assume, your real name. Hypocrite!

Anonymous said...

@Spread Love
Don't let the door hit'cha where the good Lord split'cha!
Buh Bye!

Slacker said...

@11:45 I remember learning that in 5th grade too

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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.

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).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

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.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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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.

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