Thursday, September 12, 2019

State Auditor Gives Blues Commission the Blues

State Auditor Shadrick Meeshack White issued the following statement.

Report recommends abolishing commission and assigning its responsibilities to nonprofit organization

A performance audit released today by State Auditor Shad White found the Mississippi Blues Commission could not upon request provide proper documentation for millions of dollars of expenditures.

“I want to be clear that we saw no evidence of embezzlement, fraud, or any other criminal violations when we performed this study. It’s also clear the Blues Commission has done the work that the Legislature asked it to do, which is putting up markers to promote the blues around Mississippi,” said Auditor White. “But it should also be clear that there are significant documentation issues that exist at the Commission.”

The audit lists a total of 17 findings at the Mississippi Blues Commission. Major findings include:

·         The Commission could not provide paperwork for over $950,000 of expenditures.

·         A total of nearly $2 million was paid to over 120 different vendors without a valid contract on file.

·         An “interim” fiscal agent has operated with an expired contract since 2010 and under policies not directly approved by the Commission.

·         The Commission did not establish accounts with the State Treasury as mandated by law to accurately monitor revenues and expenditures.

A comprehensive list of findings and corresponding recommendations can be found in the full report posted online at the Auditor’s website.

Originally created in 2006 by the Mississippi Legislature to promote the state’s contributions to blues music, the Commission had never been audited. After extensive review, the Auditor’s office now recommends dissolving the Commission and having its duties assigned to a private nonprofit organization to ensure the history of the blues is preserved and protect taxpayers from potentially improper spending in the future.

“My personal opinion is that preservation of the blues in Mississippi is important, but it’s also important to make sure that every public body is handling money and documenting their spending the right way,” said White. “Given the issues we saw, I am recommending the responsibilities of the Commission be rolled into a nonprofit, the Mississippi Blues Foundation, that already exists. The nonprofit Foundation can continue to seek grants and raise private funds to promote the blues here in Mississippi, the Birthplace of America’s Music.”

The Performance Audit Division of the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor exists to ensure public funds are used effectively and efficiently. The division publishes reports showing whether government entities function properly and how they could be improved. To find more performance audit reports, visit the Auditor’s website and find the Performance section under the “Reports” tab. 


Anonymous said...

Well, I guess the thrill is gone....

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a misleading headline. The third paragraph says the commission requested an audit. That sounds like a request for help to me.

Anonymous said...

Great idea Shad! Put it in a nonprofit so that there is zero oversight of public funds.

Anonymous said...

Why did we ever need a "Blues Commission" in the first place? Since it was ineffective and lacked accountability, can it be folded into the Tourism Division of the MDA?

Anonymous said... that’s a bunch of fiscal conservatives. Yeah, that should work.

Anonymous said...

How much did the Mississippi Blues Foundation pay Shad to make his recommendation?

Anonymous said...

“They can continue to seek grants”. Yea, that won’t cover it, Shad baby. Do you know how grants work? What grant would cover this? This is the prerogative of the state, not a non-profit.

Anonymous said...

Incompetence is not necessarily a pejorative term. It can simply surface when from putting untrained and unprepared people in charge of something. Seems to be the case here. But, what the hell! Ten to twelve years of incompetence is just now being discovered? Hell, put it under Truly and Canton Municipal Utilities. Or put it under that Hal And Mal Tourism guy who can assign it to that buncha big-tit, octogenarian parade dancers. My only other suggestion would be to melt it into the Civil Rights Museum if you want true accountability (wink).

Anonymous said...

"The third paragraph says the commission requested an audit. That sounds like a request for help to me."

Right! Like the guy at work who tells HR he wants to go into rehab when he knows he's about to get busted and fired.

Anonymous said...

I cannot explain it precisely and I am not defending Hammons and Associates in the least, but a particular phrase jumped out at me:

"During this review OSA requested and received an “Assignment and Work for Hire Agreement” and other memo-styled agreements from Hammons & Associates. However, this document was expired and had missing elements of a contract."

It would seem that there is some form of documentation of the work done, amounts charged and paid, etc. It would be very interesting to see these "memo-styled agreements." There may not be a legally-enforceable contract and while that is not good business practice, if everyone performed as expected, consideration was exchanged, and there was never a dispute (in other words, there was a "meeting of the minds" and everyone performed as contemplated/anticipated), it could well be that a court would hold that a contract would have indeed been formed even if it could not have been enforced due to state agency requirements. In other words, if it were two private businesses, an enforceable contract would have been formed but some "special" restriction upon government bodies (like spreading the contract upon the minutes, etc.) inhibits contract formation in this circumstance. Again, not proper practice, but nothing touching fraud, embezzlement, or malfeasance.

That said, Hammons being allegedly the "sole source" of whatever services it provided could be a sign of trouble (or generally but not properly shown to be accurate). Without any of the referenced and supporting docs, it is impossible to determine much. In other words, readers cannot form an informed opinion as to whether Hammons was the "sole source" without knowing of what it was allegedly the sole source.

Any chance any of these docs referenced in this summary report will be made available to the public?

Anonymous said...

Self reporting to the NCAA to curry favor?

Anonymous said...

@ 5:42....the guy at work is getting paid for his role. I think these commission guys were volunteers.

Anonymous said...

Seems like muddy waters to me

Anonymous said...

The Mississippi Blues Foundation is headed up by Craig Ray (of MDA) and Peyton Prospere (fill in the blank). Of course Shad would want to score some points with MDA cronies. Craig throws lots of fundraisers!!

Anonymous said...

The MBC is a Governor-appointed commission. Shad can't simply stamp his feet and make it go away. He would need to convince Phil before right quick or get in line to convince Tater on this very, very very important issue.

Stuff About ZeroBear PolyBear said...

Since we are discussing the Blues, Can we get the Bentonia Blues Festival moved to a cooler weekend. Jimmy Duck holds it on maybe the hottest day of the year. No one seems to know why. Would it be possible for the Blues Commission to check with Jimmy Duck and get back to you Kingfish?

Anonymous said...

Haha. Shad you ain’t shit!! Why are you scared of CMU and the Blackmon’s? How does Barbara take her coffee you house staff punk? Why don’t you make them pay back my tax money and rate money? Lake Caroline Matters Shad.......

Anonymous said...

This is giving me the blues

Anonymous said...

9:34 PM looks three drinks in and counting...

Anonymous said...

Why did the Blues Commission turn down Lynyrd Skynerd, a great blues/rock band, plane crash near Bogue Chitto?

Anonymous said...

The great Bobby Rush say..."Gotta Have Money"

Anonymous said...

It truly appeared at first that Shad White was very serious in uncovering and publicly exposing the massive fraud that is the State of Mississippi. However, after all these "low hanging fruit" audits, it appears that he's merely a poser preparing for the next office, hoping to avoid really taking on the major players in fraud. With what he's uncovered so far - and it just being the tip of the iceberg - one would think he would call in the Feds for help.....but he's just one of the good ole' boys/girls from Missippi'. It's really very sad - if someone with his credentials can't be trusted, MS is doomed.

Anonymous said...

"Jimmy Duck" doesn't schedule anything, not even his own appearances. He has a handler out of Louisiana who does that. Check the Facebook page for info.

Fife and Drum Corps said...

@ Zero-Polly: The Blues is about sweat, not air conditioning. If you think the Bentonia event is hot, you ain't attended the first 25 Delta Blues Festivals out in the country south of Greenville. Show up, take a cooler and a sweat rag, enjoy, leave your wingtips at home.

Anonymous said...

While the governor may populate the appointees, he ain't got shit to say about it's existence, structure or placement in government.

Anonymous said...

Little Shad's biggest obstacles would be: (1) weathering public backlash from abolishing this commission, and (2) diverting MBC's resources into a closely-tied non-profit without the proper procurement procedures in place. This sounds like something the former mayor Harvey Johnson would do. This would need to be opened up for bid.

Anonymous said...

In response to 6:11am, I tend to agree. It is as if a bank breathlessly announced that burglars took all the cash, which was lying around in bags in the teller area, but thankfully all the pens and banking slips were securely locked up tight in the time-coded high-security vault. In this latest stem-winder, there isn't an allegation of even minor criminality, but merely shoddy record-keeping and improperly-drafted contracts.

Anonymous said...

8:07 - Are you seriously suggesting there would be 'public backlash' to be 'weathered' if the Blues Commission were to be abolished? Do you reckon 2 out of a hundred Mississippians even know it exists? Make that 1 out of a hundred.

Anonymous said...

The only massive fraud is the Mississippi Energy Institute. Gov't funded waste of money for big salaries. I MEAN WHAT IN THE HELL DO THEY DO? WHAT OF SUBSTANCE HAVE THEY ACCOMPLISHED?????????

Anonymous said...

Evidently many people who feel compelled to comment on here and show their knowledge, tend to do so without any knowledge and without any intent (or ability) to even read the document they are commenting on.

3:07 & 5:40, the Blues Commission has not been appropriated any funds by the legislature, so if this were turned over to a non-profit group, there would not be the chicken little sky-falling episode of having this taxpayer money being spent without oversight. Try again?

8:47, the Commission is not a creation of the Governor, or controlled by him. Read the audit or the legislative history elsewhere if you don't want to accept the audit - Commission was created by the legislature (SB2082). Therefore, it would take an act of the legislature (along with the signature of the Governor) to abolish.

And, the Commission is not a body of the Governor - there are 19 members, of which six (6) are appointed by the Governor.

You want to try again with showing us your intellect?

and,as an aside, to 5:40 that "Hal & Mal Tourism guy" was in control of this commission for most of its history, only being pushed out a couple of years ago by some of the appointed members. So, not sure your suggestion would provide much improvement.

For what its worth, the Office of the Auditor conducts more "performance audits" than it does investigations or financial audits. The purpose of this type of audit is exactly what was done here - to find how well the agency or entity is performing its statutory duties and complying with statutes. Sometimes such a performance audit might lead to an investigation, but that is not the purpose.

And - many performance audits are requested by the agencies involved so trying to read something into the action of this group of 'volunteers' is looking for a haystack to try to locate a needle within.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 4:34 - Always good to hear from a Commission member, or ex-member. As Finebaum likes to say, "Great to catch up - Talk soon".

Anonymous said...

@4:34 All good and well, thank you. But Missippi' is hemorrhaging tax dollars that have been secreted away, and neither the State Attorney General, nor the State Auditor seem to give a damn. No one is driving the's a money grab in every corner of the Sip'....and no one is minding the loot away!

Unknown said...

In response to people comments, I can assure you Jimmy "Duck" Holmes schedules everything he does. No one makes plans for him or tells him what to do. I'm the guy from Louisiana and I facilitate what he wants to do.

Let me also say, it's easy to tear things down - especially in the relative anonymity of the internet. The Blues Commission does amazing work. People are focusing on technical documentation issues and drawing false conclusions that something improper or unethical happened. To the contrary, even the audit concluded that NO MONEY is missing and that the Commission DID THE WORK. The Blues trail markers and supporting blues musicians and events is what draws countless tourists to Mississippi. People who advocate throwing that away with little to no understanding what the Blues Commission does are either bringing an agenda to the discussion or simply reacting without thinking. We need to support the Blues Commission, the Blues Foundation, local Blues Societies and local blues venues. Otherwise, the few places that are left will be gone and there is no replacing them with the same character and authenticity.

Anonymous said...

11:20 - I'm confused by your post. I stop and visit with Duck once or twice a week. He told me as late as Wednesday of this week that 'the guy in Louisiana' schedules his appearances. He also took me out and walked me through the large shop next to the Blue Front where the tables, chairs and drum set are set up. He told me 'The people in Louisiana' set all this up for me and schedule my stuff. I also watched the guy polishing and cleaning the Blues sign in front of Blue Front on this same day. I didn't mean to step on your toes, here, but let's be honest.

Anonymous said...

@11:20 You sound like an adolescent who doesn't know how the world works......and you certainly don't know how public administration works.

There's a saying that, "if it isn't written down, it didn't happen" when it comes to public administration. Of course in this case it is (and as with most of Mississippi government) exactly what they want to do with the taxpayer's dollars. Keep the dollars rolling - without actually documenting where or who it's going to. The very Legislature of the state has exempted themselves to anyone accessing records or starts at the top......and led by the bottom feeders. Hosemann is now touting "Transparency" which is laughable - he has not intention of adhering to that.

Once again, and as others have said: It doesn't appear that Shad White has any real intention of doing anything significant except pointing the finger at a lot of low-hanging fruit, while preparing for higher office - and looking the other way at the real players who are raking in billions of tax dollars in....

Ol' man river
That ol' man river
He don't say nothing
But he must know something
Cause he just keeps rolling
He keeps rolling along
Rollin' along
He don't plant taters
He don't plant cotton
Them that plants 'em - is soon forgotten
But ol' man river
He just keeps rolling along.

Mississippi is a dark, cold, sewage flow of reality. Controlled by the descendants of a few cotton snobs of old who would never have made it outside of the state if not for the land that was likely stolen from freedmen and women after the Great Surrender. The Klan still runs things, but just looks different. Today, it's out in the open and running for the highest offices available. And the people just keeping voting along - only so they can feel they're better than at least one group of people.

Anonymous said...

September 12, 2019 at 6:26 PM, responding to 11:20 AM, who wrote, "To the contrary, even the audit concluded that NO MONEY is missing and that the Commission DID THE WORK."

No, it did not conclude either thing, but it did not conclude that money was missing or that expenditure-appropriate work was not done, either.

I found it curious that the OSA did not further explain and quote, or better yet, attach as exhibits, the documentation mentioned (and declared lacking) to assist readers' understanding of the overall situation. In other words, the "audit" does not effectively put forth and support any real conclusions at all. In my experience, if this had been part of private business internally-produced due diligence, it would have been rejected as incomplete and if had been an external, hired report the reporting firm would have some explaining to do to avoid being fired.

Anonymous said...

11:20 - If you don't schedule his events and manage his appearances, what the hell does he pay you for?

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