Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Feds to DPS: Pay it back! All $7 million.

 or how The Kingfish caught the Mississippi Department of Public Safety engaged in a blatant coverup.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration demanded the Mississippi Department of Public Safety repay $7.1 million in DUI enforcement grants.  DPS stalled paying the federal government for several years, but the NHTSA finally said enough is enough and referred the debt to the Treasury Department for collection last November.  NHTSA also said Mississippi continued to have problems in using the grants. DPS refused to provide any records about the demands to this website but JJ was able to obtain them from NHTSA. 

The feds first demanded the repayment for improper payments made from 2007-2010 in a September 2015 letter sent to DPS.  The General Counsel for NHTSA, Paul Hemmersbaugh, later told Governor Phil Bryant's Counsel, Bobby Waites, in a June 28, 2016 letter:

During a telephone conversation with you on April 4. 2016. I informed you that unless Mississippi promptly submitted a proposal for settlement or this debt. the Agency would refer the debt to the Department of Treasury for collection. After that conversation. and prior receipt of Mississippi's proposal, I received a copy of a Management Review (MR) or the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety that was issued on April 8, 2016. That MR covered the period from fiscal years 2013 to 2015  and identified substantial continuing problems within the Mississippi Office or Highway Safety. including a pervasive lack of program monitoring. The MR identified lack of documentation to show compliance with the alcohol-specific funding requirements or Section 154. the same issue that feel to the OIG's finding in 2013 that forms the basis of the current demand for payment.  The MR also found a failure to follow State and Federal contract requirements and identified unallowable costs for conferences and promotional items, among other findings.....

In light of these findings. NHTSA now lacks confidence that the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety could successfully perform its proposed settlement prior to addressing what appear to be systemic problems....
I therefore must reject Mississippi's settlement proposal....

The Agency would entertain an offer to resolve this matter through monetary payment by Mississippi. Any such offer must reflecte the OGI's confidence limits ranging from $4.7 million to $9.5 million. In addition, any monetary payment must not extend beyond three years....
Mr. Hemmersbaugh said Mississippi must respond by July 15, 2016 or else he would refer the $7.1 million debt to the Department of Treasury for collection.  He informed Mr. Waites on July 15 that the deadline was extended to August 15, 2016.    DPS Commissioner Santa Cruz placed the blame for any grant problems on NHTSA in an August 11 letter.  He said all uses of the grant funds were approved by NHTSA.  He said the amount demanded was an estimate and that DPS only owed a few hundred thousand dollars to the federal government.  He said the DPS would commission an audit and provide the findings to NHTSA. 

Commissioner Cruz apparently wasted both his own time and that of the NHTSA.  Mr. Hemmersbaugh was done with listening to excuses and said so to the Commissioner in an August 26, 2016 response:

Your letter disputes the $7.1 million in ineligible payments.... and instead seeks to reopen discussion and proposes a duplicative audit.... This is unacceptable, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will now proceed with referral to the Department of the Treasury for appropriate action. (p.7)
However, the NHTSA wasn't finished with chewing out Santa Cruz.  The feds said they first told DPS about the improper payments  in 2009 and classified Mississippi as "high risk" for these grants in 2011.  Mississippi was notified about the $7.1 repayment since February 2013.  NHTSA said it "attempted to work" with the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety to solve the recurring problems. It first demanded repayment of the $7.1 million in 2014 before it sent a formal demand in September, 2015.  The NHTSA extended the deadline twice and only then gave Mississippi a "clear" deadline to settle the dispute.  Mr. Hemmersbaugh told the Commissioner, "Your letter makes several arguments, none of which is relevant to the issue of the misspent funds" and, "Mississippi is engaged in a continuing pattern of significant performance failures."  Ouch.

Commissioner Cruz appealed the decision in October but NHTSA said the decision could not be appealed.  It also informed the Commissioner the $7.1 million was referred to the Department of Treasury for collection.  The Commissioner sent yet another letter begging for reconsideration in November.  However, Mr. Hemmersbaugh told the Commissioner to take the matter up with the Department of the Treasury since it was now collecting the debt.

JJ has filed additional public records requests seeking more information about the status of this debt.  JJ contacted the Mississippi Department of Safety yesterday but was unable to talk to any DPS officials.

Kingfish note: That was the news, now for the opinion.  JJ attempted to obtain information about the federal demands last year.  JJ asked for "All correspondence in 2016 with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or its representatives regarding the NHTSA DUI enforcement grants" in a public records request submitted to DPS on October 14, 2016.  DPS refused to provide any records  in an October 18 response:

For the past two months, the Mississippi Highway Patrol has been conducting an internal investigation into paperwork filed in a federally-funded initiative targeting impaired motorists. This is an on-going investigation. As such, pursuant to exemptions in the Mississippi Public Records Act, we cannot release information regarding this investigation at this time. Therefore, your request is denied at this time.
Keep in mind that JJ was asking for correspondence between the state and federal government and not any internal documents pertaining to an investigation.  JJ protested and said such correspondence is not part of any investigation.  DPS replied "The documents you are requesting are part of the investigation and are exempt from the Open Records Act."

DPS in its arrogance didn't consider there was another government agency at the end of this pipeline.  JJ submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  The federal government moves slowly but it does move.  NHTSA provided the records two weeks ago.  The letters are posted below.

It is quite clear there was nothing investigative about the records requested by JJ and DPS was lying through its teeth.  DPS hid the fact that the federal government was trying to force Santa Cruz and his cult of cronies to repay $7.1 million for treating DUI enforcement grants as a slush fund.  Serve & Protect at the Mississippi Department of Public Safety means DPS leaders serve themselves & protect their asses.  There is incompetence and cronyism run amuck at that agency, and this entire fiasco is glaring evidence of it.  They are bureaucrats who hide in ratholes behind badges of blue while the politicians look the other way. 

While all of this has been going on between the feds and DPS, read the DPS coverage over at the "state newspaper."  


Anonymous said...

In the initial letter to the Governor shown at the top of this page, why are there so many misspelled words and what appear to be typos? Is that a copy/past of an actual letter from the Feds or somebody's version of one?

Anonymous said...

Interesting offer.... We will entertain Mississippi's proposal to refund between 4.7 to 9.5 million. What dumbass would offer less than the minimum of that window? Wait.....this is the governor's office, right?

Anonymous said...

As I have said on here several times before, MHP is NOT beefing up anything during these national saturation periods. All they are doing is posting a commercial or three on Supertalk and a few on television and pocketing the millions from the feds.

You see fewer of them on the road during holidays than at any other time. They have been corrupt for seventy years and are still corrupt.

Anonymous said...

While all of this has been going on between the feds and DPS, read the DPS coverage over at the "state newspaper."

The "state" newspaper can't do any journalistic objective reporting when the reporter they send is a personal friend to many law enforcement agencies. Remember when they sent the former MEMA employee to report on money issues involving federal grants? The former MEMA employee was a good friend to Robert Latham. While friendship may get you in the door to get an interview you become obligated to tell the positive story. The "State" paper was also the only news outlet that refused to publish a mug-shot of a former Brandon Police officer recently arrested who also has a shady past. Again, a friend of the reporter.

Kingfish said...

and I hate writing that because she is a hard-working reporter. Really do. I respect her a great deal. Blew the doors off the coverage on the Brookhaven murder. She puts in way more than 40 hours a week. But that story linked is what it is.

Anonymous said...

7.1 million reasons why the feds should never hand over grant money to the 3nd world country of mississippi and a corrupt from top to bottom law enforcement agency, a/k/a th e ms dept of public safety .

Anonymous said...

the only difference in political corruption in Mississippi and third world countries is that in the third world , the corruption is right out in the open. in mississippi the stinking bureaucrats move heaven and earth to hid it.

Anonymous said...

and they want a 90 million dollar facility built to replace the one they have not taken care of.... much of this was shared w/ KLLM!!

Anonymous said...

Nice job DPS! Good luck getting any more grant may be time to live within your means for once.

Full Spectrum Abdullah said...

Great flanking move KF.

Abdullah Schmabdullah said...

KF is a pulling-guard when he needs to be.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't our governor have some pull with the boss in DC? He should be able to get this little bill forgiven.

Anonymous said...

DPS and State Troopers are just plain incompetent. Troopers can do a great job patrolling the roads and they do have a great trooper school. When it comes to organization, management, running an office, etc. They can't even wipe their ass. Troopers need to stay on the road. Professional people need to be hired to run office, conduct business and run the driving stations.

Pumpin' Iron... said...

Does MHP own and operate any Performance Enhancing Chemical Supplement businesses?

Anon-E-Mouse said...

Goes to show you that the DPS shouldn't go around discriminating against those that wrote grant applications for them (hat tip to Penny Corn)

Plain ol' Catfish said...

Tell you what Courtney Ann how you happened upon the breaking news should have been noted in the first 15 seconds of your live shot story. Without Kingfish's effort you had NOTHING.

'Bout time y'all either start paying him more serious props or start compensating him directly for the deep enterprise shoe-leather work he's doing. Because YOU or little CJ AIN'T doing it.

Anonymous said...

I used to work there and could write a book but no one would believe it.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:29, I think anyone who has worked in state government in Mississippi could write a book about all the crooked, criminal, and ignorant shit that goes on. But you're right, the DPS chapter would be the most disgusting, lurid and unbelievable of them all.

Anonymous said...

There was an effort to clean up DPS and the Junior Colleges during the Mabus administration. He thought he could do as Governor more than he did as Auditor in dealing with waste and corruption.
Politically, these are two untouchables for different reasons as Mabus learned.
There's not a politician in the State that doesn't know these are fiefdoms and why.
The real problem is too many people in this State have benefitted from the corruption. You don't want to believe your family member or buddy are not the upstanding person you thought. You don't mind if they " lose" your
DUI but you don't want them to ignore other DUIs. You don't mind if Pells grants are abused and students paid for training for " jobs" that aren't available as long as your town benefits from the Junior Colleges and provides some activities in your town.

Kingfish said...

Louisa Dixon? Yeah, ok.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I guess they won't be having a trooper school after all. I know this is disappointing to all of the scam artists, er troopers claiming per diem, travel expenses and comp time while hanging out in Pearl. Mr Governor, do your legacy a favor and clean this mess up.

Anonymous said...

Keep digging, ask the feds for a copy of the management review.

Anonymous said...

How many more of the pathetic pleadings have the feds already provided to t6he requester?

I think the KF might have another story of two already in the pipeline.

X2 on the FOIA for the management review.

Anonymous said...

With the interest that has accrued for DPS refusal to pay it is now much more than 7.1 million dollars. I don't think there will be another trooper school for awhile.

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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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