Monday, May 11, 2020

Food Fight: Shad v. IHL Grand Poobah

The IHL Commissioner and State Auditor sparred last week over the DHS scandal. Commissioner Dr. Alfred Rankins demanded State Auditor Shad White change a section of the DHS audit that said the IHL Board approved a $5 million lease of a wellness center between the USM Athletic Foundation and MCEC.  Mr. White called his bluff and raised him as he not only refused to change the report but slapped the Commish down with his own minutes.  The DHS audit states:

University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation - In October 2017, MCEC signed a “sublease” with the University of Southern Mississippi Athletic Foundation for $5,000,000 as “lease prepayments” for rental of a multi-purpose wellness center on the University’s campus. The lease’s term was for a five-year period from October 26, 2017 until July 31, 2022. At the time of the signing of the lease, the building had not yet been built, and the lease stated that the $5,000,000 was to fund certain additions, alterations and renovations to the new Wellness Center.

The lease stated that MCEC would be permitted to use other University property in lieu of the Wellness Center until its construction was completed. The lease from the Athletic Foundation was then transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). The transfer of the lease was approved by the Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) Board in their October 2017 Board Meeting. A review of the minutes of that Board Meeting state that the funding for the sublease between MCEC and the Athletic Foundation is from funding “via a Block Grant from the Mississippi Department of Human Services.” (p.32)
The report states MCEC paid $5 million to the Foundation as stated in the lease.  IHL Commissioner Dr. Alfred Rankins, Jr. took strong exception to the report.   He accused the State Auditor of making several "important factual inaccuracies" in the report and demanded he correct them.  President Rankins stated:

 There was a separate sub-lease agreement between the USM Athletic Foundation and MCEC.  The Board of Trustees does not have the authority to approve, and did not approve, the sub-lease agreement between the USM Athletic Foundation and MCEC.  The sub-lease agreement between the USM Athleic Foundation and MCEC was not transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi.

The only agreement related to these matters which was approved by the Board of Trustees in October  2017 was the lease agreement between the University of Southern Mississippi and the USM Athletic  Foundation (see attached excerpt from the minutes of the October 2017 meeting of the Board of  Trustees).  This lease agreement was reviewed by a Special Assistant to the Attorney General and  recommended by the Attorney General’s Office for approval by the Board of Trustees. 
I respectfully request that you have the inaccuracies within the attached document corrected.
Small in size but not small in stature, the State Auditor stood up to the Commish and called his bluff:

In your letter you allege there were "important factual inaccuracies" in the FY 2019 Single Audit. The thrust of your objection seems to be that IHL "did not approve" (emphasis is yours) a sub­-lease agreement between the USM Athletic Foundation and the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC). If you are trying to establish that IHL did not know MCEC was paying USM with Department of Human Services (OHS) funds for use of USM facilities, then your argument is disproven by IHL Board minutes. In your Board minutes from October 19, 2017, IHL approved a lease, and the minutes show the lease they approved was "funded through the lease of athletic department facilities by the Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC)." The minutes also acknowledge that "MCEC's funding for this project is via a Block Grant from the Mississippi Department of Human Services." While IHL may not have approved the original arrangement between MCEC and the USM Athletic Foundation, the audit never suggests this. Instead, the audit shows that IHL approved the lease of land with the understanding that the property would be used by MCEC in exchange for OHS money.

IHL cannot claim ignorance of this fact. That assertion flies in the face of your own minutes. If IHL objected to the arrangement with MCEC, then the time to voice that objection was when the matter came up for a vote, not after the State Auditor pointed it out...
 Mr. White didn't stop with citing minutes but instead turned the Commissioner's self-righteous words right back on him:

One of the audit's central points is that MCEC never used the facility it "leased," and, as a result, the payment from MCEC represented nothing more than a donation to the USM Athletic Foundation (Nancy New, head of MCEC, served on the Foundation's board at the time). If you had argued that IHL did not know MCEC would fail to use the facility, and therefore did not know this payment would be a donation, that argument would be well-taken. Many recipients of MCEC money did not know why they benefitted from Nancy New's largesse and did not understand New's intentions. Moreover, if you had argued that IHL did not know the "Block Grant" from MCEC was a TANF block grant, then that might have been a stronger argument, too.

Instead, you chose to allege the audit was inaccurate. It is not. IHL knew DHS money paid for a "lease" agreement for a campus facility. Your objection strikes me as nothing more than quibbling with word choice in the audit while ignoring that important point. Instead of quibbling, perhaps your time could be better spent providing the public with a plan for the Wellness Center to be used by the at-risk community in Hattiesburg and providing that to me in a letter. This way, the TANF money that was paid for the Center might be used to benefit the community it was intended to benefit. (KF: What? You mean let them use our fancy facilities? (sarcasm)). 
What will Dr. Rankins do? 

Note: Dr. Rankins letter is on page 3.


Anonymous said...

Hey Kingfish! Shad White is your new hero.You have a new one every week. 😷

Anonymous said...

They better get this man a body guard.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in mississippi for 15 years now.... I can't figure out why we even have an IHL board... most states don't have this and seem much more effective.

Anonymous said...

Dayum! Go Shad!

Several years ago I was asked to change a report because the investigation revealed derogatory information about the subject (a friend of the guvnah) - I refused and filed an ethics complaint, which was investigated by....wait for it...a guy appointed by my boss.

Mississippi needs an inspector general who works alongside the state auditor to expose this kind of bullshit, and state agencies need an independent body that can provide real whistleblower protections.

Anonymous said...

Shad just doesn't get it. TANF funds are meant to help the poor and underprivileged. Anyone with a college degree understands that poor and underprivileged are relative terms. Relatively speaking USM and Conference USA easily qualify as the poor and underprivileged in the most important neighborhood of all, Division I college football. They need that money.
USM cannot afford to divert it's few pennies so needed on the gridiron to volleyball and "wellness centers". This ain't the Southeastern Conference where they can print money, this is the ghetto (Well maybe not the worst ghetto, that's the SWAC) But the point is, the IHL and our former Gov'nah know USM needs help and they would not turn their backs on a fine institution and
such good ole boys. Lighten up Shad.

Anonymous said...

A standing ovation for Shad, as he drops the microphone and walks off the stage...

Check out the membership of the IHL board. Most are likely big Republican contributors or have some access to a corporate expense account and airplanes. Others seem to just check the diversity box. None have any background in university education other than graduating from one.

Anonymous said...

What ever happened on the meat packing plant that involved caruthers construction?

Anonymous said...

The IHL has never appropriately administered the university system. The university presidents run the universities with zero oversight. There is no system. Twelve headless horsemen wandering around doing their own thing, regardless of what he law says. Universities are above the law (at least when their football team is doing well).

The IHL Minutes Man said...

Reading is fundamental!

Anonymous said...

All this leads to the following questions:
1. What did Governor Bryant (and his spouse) know and when?
2. Based on the Governor’s ties to Shad and everyone involved, why didn’t Shad recuse himself?

Anonymous said...

This show the difference between big talk and actually doing the work. Mr. White and his team are clearly doing the work. My hat's off to them.

Anonymous said...

The IHL is the gang that couldn't shoot straight. When they make war on their own institutions (see Ayers lawsuit) they botch that up. When they try to appoint foxes in charge of the hen house ( UM and JSU presidents) they botch that up. When they try to help slip a little funding under the table to the Govnahs favorite "charity" (USM athletics) they botch that up. Maybe they should be put in charge of SPREADING the pandemic. They would find a cure.

The way I see it said...

Where is the state's attorney general on all of this thieving? There are several somebodies that need to be doing a perp walk.

Anonymous said...

12:15--Bingo. You can't tell me "the Whistleblower" wasn't behind most of this. He gave his orders to DHS Davis to carry out. Shad didn't take this to the feds and stuck it with Jody O because they don't want to see Davis get a deal to start squealing.

Also, Al Rankins = Empty Suit

Anonymous said...

Wonder if the lawyer from the AG's office that reviewed it all was the same one they used to draft Ellis Johnson's coaching contract...

Hold My Beer said...

Yall are going to be crying if this turns out to be an elaborate republican catch and release (with immunity) scheme.

Anonymous said...

Shad for Gov., then President of the United States. Go Shad.

Anonymous said...

@12:38 PM she doesn't have time for any of that. She is busy working on sueing China.

Anonymous said...

I'm betting USM President Rodney Bennett will be served up soon, as he should. This isn't his first controversy.

Anonymous said...

11:04 - I know that facts are pesky little things, like gnats in the spring, but they still are 'facts'.

Your statement belies the facts when you say "most states don't have one (and IHL). While they might not be called "IHL", most states do have an overall governing body. Check your records, no better - check the records - and come back to us with your claim.

PS - I'll bet ten to one you are an OM alum/supporter.

Pompous Is As Pompous Does said...

So, Shadrack is real good with backing up his allegations. Let's see how good he is with backing up his lies about Brett Favre. He owes Mr. Favre and the rest of us a public apology.

Anonymous said...

Remember the dead roadkill rendering plant that cost $ millions $?
Remember the trees to gas plant that cost $ millions $?
Remember the coal to gas to electricity plant that cost $ billion $?
Remember the head o prisons that stole millions?
Remember Lamar Adams that cost $ millions $?
Remember the DHS employees stole $ million?
<<<<<< You won't see any of this under SHAD WHITE Tour in office >>>>>>>

Anonymous said...

11:28, While some members of the board may be Republican(not sure why we have to interject political affiliations into everything, but I digress), there's 12 people on the board and they voted 7 to 5 on granting professor James Thomas tenure at Ole Miss. A motion was made by Trustee Gee Ogletree, seconded by Trustee Hooper, to approve tenure for James Michael Thomas; promotion to Associate Professor of Sociology; Department of Sociology and Anthropology; effective July 1, 2019. The motion passed on a 7 to 5 vote, with Trustee Cunningham joining by phone. Trustees voting for the motion were: Dr. Steven Cunningham, Mr. Shane Hooper, Mr. Bruce Martin, Dr. Alfred McNair, Mr. Gee Ogletree, Mr. Hal Parker, and Dr. Walt Starr. Trustees voting against the motion were: Mr. Tom Duff, Dr. Ford Dye, Ms. Ann Lamar, Ms. Jeanne Luckey, and Mr. Chip Morgan.

Remember Thomas is the Ole Miss professor who was on record on his social media about harassing conservatives and urging his students to stick their fingers in the food of people they don't agree with. He stated “Don’t just interrupt a senator’s meal, y’all,” Thomas wrote. “Put your whole damn fingers in their salads. Take their apps and distribute them to the other diners. Bring boxes and take their food home with you on the way out. They don’t deserve your civility.”

While some may be Republican, I bet the majority lean to the left, but good try at trying to paint it that way. Here I was being told that Democrats are the party of tolerance.

Anonymous said...

So how much has Shad clawed back for us in total? How much graft has he exposed? How much future money has he saved us?

Great work. Kid has paid for himself and then some.

Anonymous said...

4:06, that was about MSU people on the Board wanting to stick it to Ole Miss. OM representatives on the Board voted no. That is another big problem on this board. Not everyone has the best interest of all the universities at heart. Some want to stab others in the back.

Anonymous said...

I believe all 12 on the IHL Board were appointed by Phil Bryant. They are all tried and true Republicans.

And it is true that that 5 who voted against tenure for Thomas were Ole Miss grads. We did not need Thomas, nor want him.

Anonymous said...

10:25, I looked through the Bios, and one see 3 MS State people, 4 Ole Miss people, and 3 USM people, 1 Jackson State grad, 1 Tugaloo grad. Nice try to paint it into a MSU thing.

Anonymous said...

10:25 Quite wrong. IHL history shows they have NEVER had the best interest of ALL the universities at heart. Stabbing in the back is reserved for UM
and MSU, others they stab right in the heart. No big deal.

Anonymous said...

Shad White is no joke. He is exactly what this state needs! Brilliant and corageous.

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