Issues News & Commentary

Will the Plan Be Revealed?

Publisher’s note: Please read this carefully and with great consideration. This is a sensitive subject and may cause some to think we are attempting to induce fear or panic. We are not. We do not publish these reports and documents without due deliberation. There are facts that we can no longer conceal; someone must stand up before it is too late. 

As we stated in our previous post, SRHS’ plans must be revealed.  Since the beginning, SRHS has worked to sow discord between employees and retirees under the theory of divide and conquer. The number of active employees in the plan is greater than the number of retired members.  SRHS was in a perfect position to coercively influence their employees against any plan litigation. Indeed, one of the smallest plaintiffs’ groups is made up of active employees.

The largest number of plan members are middle aged. Retirement for them is too far away on the horizon to be worried about squabbling and litigiousness.  Right now they are focused on raising kids and getting them off to college, and not as concerned with retirement that is 25+ years away.  There is also the idea that there is time for younger and middle aged plan members to recover, so any loss at the hands of SRHS may be made up by future promotions or raises.

Singing River has been working very hard to keep its current employees working under the belief that the settlement is the only way to save Singing River.  That if only a settlement is crammed through can things improve.  This is not true.

As we stated the other day, even if SRHS’ future pension liability is zero, the system would still struggle.  As evidence, look to the last five years where SRHS has paid nothing into the plan.  They are still not meeting the financial requirements of the bonds.

Though things have improved, they have not improved enough.

News & Commentary

OPINION: Pascagoula Hilton Garden Inn is a Welfare Queen

The Pascagoula Hilton Garden Inn is dollar-for-dollar one of the biggest welfare queens in the county.

The literal groundwork for the hotel was paid for by federal taxpayers, in the form of a $3.3 million grant from HUD, through the MDA and the City of Pascagoula. This was used to do the site work, move utilities, and install proper drainage for the facility.

Then the developers benefited from a $6.5 million capital contribution from 13 foreign investors.  The State Department runs a program whereby foreign investors can get a visa leading to a green card if they invest $500,000 or more in impoverished areas.  These wealthy foreigners are more concerned about the visa than the investment return. Many look at it as a way of “buying” a green card.

Foreign investors paid $500,000 for a 2% slice of the Pascagoula Hilton.  Morris Strickland claimed they spent $20 million building the hotel. If that is the case, the 2% of $20 million is only $400,000.  These investors have already lost 20% of the value of their investment.

Issues News & Commentary Players

OPINION: Vestiges of Corruption Cancer Remain, Must Be Removed

A lot of the players who were either complicit, confederates, or otherwise conniving in the corruption surrounding Singing River Health System and the Jackson County Board of Supervisors are now gone. Retirement saw the departure of Nebo Carter and Mike Crews. A higher paying refuge in Jackson beckoned to Chris Anderson. Downsizing and out of state moves took out Stephanie Taylor and Celeste Oglesby.

Elections shed John McKay and Mike Mangum, which resulted in the firing of Paula Yancey. A path to settlement saw the SRHS Board of Trustees overturned. You have racked up quite a score, but are still on the path to losing.

Jackson County suffers from a cancer of corruption. You the voters have applied pressure and removed several of the nodes to which the cancer has spread, but the tumors still remain: the lawyers.

Issues Litigation News & Commentary

Cumbest Has Bigger Ethics Problem Than Lake George

While all of Jackson County has been paying close attention to the fact that Barry Cumbest has been using elected office to lobby for projects that touch upon lands owned by him and his family, there is another conflict of interest that has been overlooked: he is a member of the putative class in the lawsuit against Singing River Hospital.

The class description defines members as:

[A]ll current and former employees of Singing River Health System who participated in the Singing River Health System Employees’ Retirement Plan and Trust, including their spouses, alternate payees, death beneficiaries, or any other person to whom a plan benefit may be owed.

Barry Cumbest meets this definition due to the fact that his wife, until last year, was employed at Singing River Hospital.  As such, she was a participant in the pension plan and Cumbest would be her beneficiary.

Issues News & Commentary

Guice Wants (Ex)Wife to Control Pension Plan

Billy Guice thinks SRHS pension plan trustee Steve Simpson is not doing a good job. In a recent JCBOS meeting, Guice criticized Simpson’s handling of the plan’s funds and also with Simpson’s apparent lack of transparency.

Guice went on to say that Simpson would not have been his first choice for trustee.  Simpson wasn’t the first choice for Judge Hilburn; he was the sixth.  Guice said that he preferred a professional trustee with trust experience, something Simpson lacks.  The bulk of Simpson’s legal experience has been in criminal matters.

Guice went on to say that his choice would have been The Peoples Bank in Biloxi.  No doubt that Guice would be comfortable with Peoples, as he and his family have a long relationship with the bank. When you look specifically at the trust department you find:


That’s right, Billy Guice wanted to put his (ex)wife in charge of the pension trust. Ms. Guice, by all appearances, is everything you would want in a trust officer.  The problem lies in that her (ex)husband is an attorney involved in ongoing litigation over that very trust.

One episode of nepotism was avoided in not selecting Peoples Bank.  It was trumped by cronyism with the appointment of Simpson.



News & Commentary

SRHS Searching for New General Counsel

With the impending departure of Celeste Reep Oglesby to Tennessee, Singing River is on the hunt for a replacement. Recently Oglesby circulated the below e-mail to local law firms and attorneys.

We are told that most of the attorneys being contacted are under the age of 45, the implication being that SRHS is looking for a patsy who won’t stand up to Brett Williams, Dogan & Wilkinson, Kevin Holland or anyone else seeking to preserve the status quo. Holland is said to be conducting interviews and plans to only recommend one “choice” to the Board of Trustees. Multiple sources have informed SRHS Watch that the new trustees are asking questions and are getting a lot of push-back from both Williams and Holland.

Two other c-suiters are expected to resign in the coming weeks.


From: Celeste Oglesby
Sent: Tuesday, February 16, 2016 11:18 AM
To: Celeste Oglesby
Subject: General Counsel Position at SRHS


News & Commentary

Dogan & Wilkinson Now Advocating Transparency, Just Not at SRHS

Local and social media has been abuzz recently with talk about transparency of the Jackson County Utility Authority.  Several city leaders are going to the mattresses against the JCUA claiming that the board has no oversight, no transparency, no accountability,  and no way to be reined in.  Much of the language and arguments being used are the same ones that have been said about Singing River.  Here is a sample from the City of Gautier’s Facebook page:

Did You Know?
Your wastewater treatment costs are decided by a non-elected government board, who pass operating costs onto you, via your city bill? Did you know there is no oversight by a state agency? Jackson County and its 4 cities have created the JCUA Taskforce to look into this issue due to its impacts on homebuilders and citizens.


It all sounds very distressing. Nearly the entire Jackson County delegation is on board in implementing changes. Michael Watson (formerly of Dogan & Wilkinson) has mentioned that the JCUA has an “unregistered lobby” in Jackson.

What’s interesting is that the cities are not alone in this crusade. They have recruited their attorneys into this fight and since Dogan & Wilkinson represents Ocean Springs, Moss Point, and formerly Gautier, they are in the mix.  (Two Dogan & Wilkinson partners split to form their own firm, Bordis & Danos. Josh Danos continues to represent the City of Gautier.)

What is ironic is that at the center of the cities’ push for openness and transparency at the JCUA is the same firm that has fought it and profited from it at Singing River: Dogan & Wilkinson.




Litigation News & Commentary Players

Swiss Cheese Chronicles: Sua Sponte or on Motion of the Parties?

In reading the responses to the Miss. Supreme Court, the phrase “missing the forest for the trees” springs to mind.  It seems that all parties involved have become so focused on the competing federal and chancery cases, they forget the underlying and undeniable facts.  Subsequent to the ex parte hearing, six separate orders were entered in the Almond and Lay cases.  These are orders that were a result of action taken at the January 12 meeting.

  1. Order Granting Motion to Intervene by Special Fiduciary
  2. Order Authorizing Special Fiduciary Trustee to Enter into Settlement and Release
  3. Order Authorizing Payment of Special Fiduciary Fees
  4. Order Approving Invoice for Payment by Parties
  5. Order Approving Fees and Expenses of Charles J. Mikhail
  6. E-mail order staying all cases and cancelling hearings

These are facts that are not in dispute. Some lawyers are now making claims which fly in the face of facts and the record of the court.

News & Commentary

Local Attorney Weighs In on Video, Alleged Corruption

Editor’s note: A local attorney who is not involved in any SRHS litigation has written to share his/her opinion after viewing the video and reading the motion filed by Barton and Denham.

I will use no falsehood nor delay any person’s cause for lucre or malice….

Miss. Code 73-3-35 (Oath of Miss. attorneys taken upon being admitted to practice)


I am an attorney, and tonight I am hanging my head with shame and disappointment. Mississippi’s judiciary, bar and people are presented with yet another display of apparent back-room dealing by lawyers, a judge and special master.

The video tells the story far better than my words can. A group of attorneys, a state court judge and his appointed special master all meet in the special master’s office. That special master, Britt Singletary, explains the meeting as “There was nothing secret about it, … It had nothing to do with any pending motions in state court. It was about the federal court case.” [per WLOX report]. If that is true Mr. Singletary, then please explain why an hour later ALL STATE CASES AGAINST SRHS BEFORE JUDGE HILBURN WERE STAYED, INCLUDING THOSE CASES FILED BY BARTON AND DENHAM???? If its is truly about the federal class action case, then explain why THE ATTORNEY FOR JACKSON COUNTY, A STATE COURT JUDGE, A STATE COURT SPECIAL MASTER AND THE PENSION PLAN TRUSTEE WERE ALL PRESENT WHEN NONE OF THEM ARE PARTIES TO THAT FEDERAL CASE???

I know from personal experience that a little bit of Harvey Barton and Earl Denham go a long way. They can be jerks who piss off a judge or lawyer in a New York minute with snide remarks and sometimes stretch their cases to the absurd. However in this instance, they appear to have hit a bulls-eye. I can think of no good reason or excuse to explain the circumstances of this meeting which directly impacted plaintiff-retirees whose lawyers were not invited to attend. Due process goes to the very heart of our legal system. Without it, individuals will always suffer the whims of the rich or powerful. If half of what Earl and Harvey allege in the motion is true, then these experienced attorneys and a judge have tried to crush the rights of SRHS retirees and employees in the name of money and expediency.

What needs to happen??? Obviously the Mississippi Supreme Court needs to take swift action to right this apparent wrong. At a bare minimum, a new judge is in order. US District Court Judge Guirola needs to put the brakes on what has been so far an inevitable slide toward a mandatory settlement of every retiree/employees claims against SRHS and its upper management/trustees. The recent downturn in the stock market demonstrates the settlement proposal puts the entire risk of future market fluctuations on the retirees. Finally, the Jackson County Board of Supervisors need to immediately reevaluate their agreement to contribute to this settlement, to ensure it is the interest of all citizens of Jackson County.

I believe a settlement is badly needed. Retirees/employees will get less than they deserve. That is true of all settlements. But if benefits are to be cut in the future, or greater risk placed upon retirees for market changes, then those actions and approval of a settlement have to be done in the most open manner possible. We are adults. We know life is not fair. We have all been disappointed by employers, friends, family, governments, etc. But if I am going to be screwed, I want to at least know why, how and when. So do the SRHS retirees/employees.

This struggle began over a lack of transparency in the operations and management of Singing River Health System. Despite all the litigation and media coverage, a select few are still bent on deciding the financial fate of thousands in back room, secret meetings. Let us pray they fail.

Note: “Lucre” means “money, especially when regarded as sordid or distasteful or gained in a dishonorable way.”

Litigation News & Commentary Players

Emergency Motion Filed at Supreme Court – Alleges Judicial Corruption

Attorneys Harvey Barton and Earl Denham have filed a motion with the Mississippi Supreme Court asking for an emergency hearing on their cases in the Singing River pension matter.
Barton and Denham point to video of a secret meeting by the judges in the case and attorneys from SRHS and for other plaintiffs.

The motion alleges a secret meeting was held at Special Master Britt Singletary’s Biloxi office. The meeting concluded less than an hour before Judge Hilburn issued orders on several motions before canceling hearings scheduled the next day. Hilburn has put an indefinite pause in place on all of his cases related to SRHS. A motion asking Hilburn and Singletary to recuse was still pending when Hilburn ordered the pause.

Attendees of the Tuesday, January 12, 2015 meeting are alleged to include:

  • Judge Breland Hilburn
  • Special Master Britt Singletary
  • Special Fiduciary Steve Simpson
  • Brett Williams, attorney for SRHS
  • Kelly Sessoms, attorney for SRHS
  • Scott Taylor, SRHS trustee and also a licensed attorney
  • Billy Guice, special counsel for the Jackson County Board of Supervisors
  • Jim Reeves, attorney for one group of plaintiffs
  • Matt Mestayer, partner with Jim Reeves, attorney for plaintiffs

Reeves, Guice, and attorneys for SRHS have recently signed a settlement agreement which seeks to stop all litigation against Singing River.

Barton and Denham’s motion asks the court to:

  • Allow the cases to continue
  • Remove Judge Breland Hilburn from overseeing the cases
  • Remove Britt Singletary as special master in the cases
  • Remove Steve Simpson as special fiduciary
  • Remove Dogan & Wilkinson, Brett Williams and Kelly Sessoms from representing SRHS
  • Remove Jim Reeves and Matt Mestayer from representing anyone in connection to the case
  • Remove Scott Taylor from his position as a trustee of SRHS
  • Appoint a new judge to oversee the cases

SRHS Watch will update this story as more information comes available.

Read the 57 page motion here.