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Supervisors Need Public Support
for Good Government

by Royce Hignight             Filed  7/13/03

In regard to the Harrison County Board of Supervisors meeting with the some of the Harrison County Development Commissioners on July 12, 2003, as covered in the GCN report, “Harrison County Supervisors Go on Offensive with Development Commission,” and the Sun Herald coverage of the same that was in the July 13, 2004, I can personally tell you that day was probably the best day in Harrison County during the last 30 years for those who prefer good government over government for the few.

I believe good government can do more for economic development than all the wining and dining, and expensive paid-for trips by development officials. There are some who would say the public and local officials should quit criticizing the HCDC under the misconception that it hurts the area's economic development, but when is fixing something broken a mistake.

The news coverage of the supervisor's July 12th meeting came no where close to capturing the truly remarkable events of that day.  The Development Commission entourage was led by the HCDC President, Elmer Williams, who acted as spokesman for the group.  The entourage consisted of five or six Commissioners; HCDC Board Attorney, Harry Allen, Mayors A.J. Holloway, and Ken Combs;  Kim Compton, Deputy Director of HCDC, who had been recently designated by HCDC as the Interim Director by the HCDC Commissioners.

The general attitude of the HCDC representatives appeared to be that they wanted to get some guidance from the Supervisors and move forward and leave the past behind. But in my opinion that appearance was false. What was wrong was THAT HCDC HAD NOT FOLLOWED THE LAW IN REGARD TO THE APPOINTMENT OF COMPTON AS INTERIM DIRECTOR.  Supervisor Rocko pointed this oversight out as just a continuing pattern of unlawful and questionable activities at the HCDC, which appeared to by systemic.  The law states that HCDC has the authority to nominate a Director, but final approval rest with the Board of Supervisors.

Attorney Harry Allen sought to deflect Rocko’s criticism by saying that he had furnished a legal opinion that the law did not specifically mention Interim Director, therefore, he furnished an opinion that the consent of the Board of Supervisors was not necessary.  Harry Allen’s nonsensical reasoning was too much for Supervisor Marlin Ladner who retorted, “An eighth grader can read that law and understand exactly what it means.” 

After that it was all down hill for Allen and the Commissioners.

Supervisor Ladner then began questioning why the HCDC had not provided a contract for the former Executive Director, why the HCDC had not submitted contracts of $25,000 or more to the Supervisors for approval as required by law. 

Several of the Commissioners and Mayors Holloway and Combs tried to defend the indefensible. The HCDC Commissioners conceded that “they had made some mistakes.” That set the stage for Henry “Tut” Kinney to speak.

Kinney, a Pass Christian, resident and very able, articulate, hardball playing New Orleans attorney,  had been victimized by the unlawful access to public records policy of the HCDC, but subsequently won a court case over his records request. Kinney opened by saying that there had been no real change at the HCDC, in spite of the contrition exhibited by HCDC Commissioners before the Board of Supervisors.

Henry provided an example by criticizing HCDC President Elmer Williams, also a Bancorp South official, in which bank the had acquired a “prime location” in the Biloxi Commerce Park, operated by the commission.  Kinney stated that such an occurrence would have been headline news in any other place. Kinney pulled no punches for Allen and his legal advice nor of the other Commissioners. 

The Supervisor’s meeting that day may have marked a positive turning point in Harrison County Government.  Fortunately for all, the meeting was video recorded.  See for yourself. If you don't think local government isn't informative and even entertaining, this tape would change your mind. It is going to be shown on CableOne channel 3 in Biloxi at approximately 7:00 PM on Wednesday 7/14/04, Thursday 7/15/04, and Friday 7/16/04. It may appear on another CableOne channel in other Coast cities.

Please advise your friends, neighbors, family, and associates.  If possible, record it and pass it on.  Put the tape in circulation.  You can have good clean government only by taking part and supporting those elected officials who have stood up for you and take action against those who did not.

About the Author

Royce Hignight is a long time Coast resident and retired FBI Agent who spent much of his career investigating white collar crime and corruption in the state and on the Coast. He currently operates a private investigative and consulting service.

Contact the Author: mailto:hignight@cableone.net

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