Hancock County

The Favre family governs much of Hancock County. Is that a good thing?

Casey Favre, left, Mike Favre and Eddie Favre
Casey Favre, left, Mike Favre and Eddie Favre amccoy@sunherald.com

If you do business with government in Hancock County, you will likely meet someone named Favre.

Mike Favre is the mayor of Bay St. Louis. His brother, Eddie, is the Hancock County administrator. And now Casey Favre, Mike’s son and Eddie’s nephew, leads the school board and has just landed a lucrative contract to run the health care system at the county jail. Oh, and he’ll soon be instrumental in picking the next superintendent in the Bay-Waveland School District.

Is so much of the Favre family a good deal for Hancock County residents?

“I’m hearing all this crap about nepotism and conflicts but it’s kind of like what was said over in Harrison County, it’s almost like it’s a family rule, a family tradition of public service,” said Eddie Favre.

“I tell everybody all the time that there ain’t nobody in their right mind would want to do this. You’ve got to be nuts to subject yourself to the crap you get in political life, whether it’s appointed or elected. So unfortunately, you don’t have some good people offering themselves to take the crap that you’re going to end up taking. At the same time, you have others who feel the commitment to serve.”

He pointed to the Adam family, also of Hancock County. Scotty Adam is District 4 supervisor. Ricky Adam is sheriff. And Brian “Hooty” Adam is emergency management services director. They are brothers who Favre said have roots in public service that run almost as deep as the Favres’. Almost. The first Favre, Jean Baptiste, arrived from France in the early 18th century.

Casey Favre’s oppositon on the Bay-Waveland School Board and critics of the Bay St. Louis administration see a power play. Board members Mike Bell and Mark Kidd said the latest move by a Favre is designed to let Casey Favre get his superintendent. They say they’ve been crossways with the new school board president since they were part of a 4-1 vote that hired Vikki Landry for that post in 2016.

Now, they find themselves on the outside.

Mike Favre paved the way for his son to once again lead the Bay-Waveland School Board when he appointed Ann Lathrop and Vicki Arnold to the board, replacing Joan Thomas and Maurice Singleton.

It wasn’t lost on the mayor’s critics that two white women were replacing a black man and woman and that left the school district with no minority representation on the School Board. Hours before the City Council voted to approve Lathrop’s appointment, Councilman Jeffery Reed, a black man, received an anonymous letter that referred to him as a n-----. The mayor said he also received a copy of the letter mailed in Gulfport and he turned it over to the police and FBI.

“That’s nuts,” the mayor said of any suggestion that race played a role in his School Board decisions.

Ethics, AG opinions requested

And the dominoes haven’t stopped falling.

Monday, the Hancock County Board of Supervisors tentatively approved hiring Casey Favre as director of inmate health care at the jail provided Attorney General Jim Hood and the state Ethics Commission say the hiring doesn’t violate either the state Constitution or state statutes.

“I’m not sure there is a separation of power issue,” said Board President Blaine LaFontaine of Casey Favre’s leadership role at Bay-Waveland. “But I think having the popular documentation ‘a’ supports this board and ‘b’ supports Mr. Favre in this endeavor.”

He wanted the Ethics Commission and attorney general to weigh in on whether the nepotism statute would be violated because Eddie Favre was “an appointed figurehead” of the county. Eddie Favre said he had nothing to do with the appointment, which was recommended by Sheriff Ricky Adam.

“Specifically by law, the county administrator is excluded with having anything to do with the sheriff’s department,” said Eddie Favre.

Adam told supervisors by terminating a $385,000 contract with Quality Correction Health Care and hiring Favre, a nurse practitioner for $115,000 as director of health services, a full-time medical services coordinator and full time registered and licensed practical nurses, the county could save about $80,000. Should costs rise above $385,000, the difference would come out of the sheriff’s budget.

LaFontaine said the supervisors negotiated Favre’s salary down from $123,000 to $115,000.

School shakeup continues

Monday night, Casey Favre and the rest of the Bay-Waveland School Board began the process of replacing Superintendent Vikki Landry, whose resignation was accepted less than an hour after Favre was elected president last week.

At the same meeting, within minutes of returning from an executive session and a little over an hour after he was elected board president on the 3-2 vote, he steamrolled through the meat of the monthly agenda, accepting Landry’s resignation, shortening the contract of her brother Jon McCraw as business administrator, forbidding the district from doing business with the law firm Adams and Reese LLP of Jackson and asking the attorney to look into changing the board policy to prohibit board members from going to an outside agency with a complaint without board approval.

There were many 3-2 votes involved with Favre, Lathrop and Arnold voting together. The three board members live in the same Bay neighborhood.

The no votes came from Kidd and Bell, the man Favre replaced as president. They are elected members from Waveland.

“I will voice my opinion,” said Kidd. “I’ll be here for the kids.”

But, he said, it’s clear he won’t be on the winning side of votes unless he happens to agree with Favre.

Favre gave no explanation for the actions he pushed through and there was no discussion before votes. But, he was against hiring Landry in 2016 and he was the subject of an investigation by the state Department of Education.

Animosity grows

Mayor Favre gave Joan Thomas’ votes on Landry’s hiring as the reason he refused to re-appoint her and chose to go with Lathrop instead.

Casey Favre was appointed by previous Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame in September 2015, which means his term will expire in 2019. His father would appoint his replacement.

“He can’t reappoint him,” said Bruce Northridge, a supporter of previous Fillingame and critic of the Favres.

He said he didn’t know if it was race, or just conflicting personalities that led to the shakeup. But he said he was reminded of Singleton, who stood up in meetings and said there had always been minority representation since the integration in the early 1970s.

“That system always worked,” said Northridge, who said he wondered if the motive for the shakeup was to revive an effort to consolidate Bay-Waveland and Hancock County school districts.

So it’s clear, observers say, that government is just as divided as it was during the Fillingame years. There have been turbulent meetings of the supervisors where groups of blue-clad library supporters protested the county when it reworked the library system and tilted its Board of Trustees toward the county. Supporters of Thomas lined up to speak in her favor but Favre still prevailed in a split vote to get her off the School Board.

It goes with the job

Eddie Favre said it’s just part of government, though not a part he particularly likes.

“If no one’s mad at you,” he said, “you aren’t doing anything.”

He was an icon of the Katrina recovery, dressed in the shorts he vowed to wear until his city was rebuilt. Eventually, though, he’d had enough and he didn’t run for re-election in 2009.

By last year, he said, he was bored with retirement.

“At the time, there was talk of an annexation and I called a couple of board members to see if they were hiring a consultant to deal with those issues,” he said. “One of them said, I’m not sure what we’re going to do but our administrator is leaving so would you consider.

“I said that’s not on my bucket list, let alone on top of it. But we talked.”

Eventually, he became administrator.

“It’s a great board,” he said. “They’re not afraid to make a decision and stand by that decision because it’s something they feel is right.”

And, that, he said will always bring out the critics.

“Other boards would be intimidated when you fill the room up with blue shirts,” he said of the library supporters. “They do what they think is in the best interest of the community as a whole. And I love them for that.”

His brother the mayor is going to have to deal with Fillingame’s supporters, who haven’t forgotten the election.

“Les Fillingame is a good man,” said Rhonda Oliver, one of those supporters. “And they absolutely ran him in the ground. People are sick of this. They are sick of them.”

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton