Mayor vetoes additional $18,400 payment to seafood museum

Mayor A.J. Holloway today vetoed a City Council proposal that would have made an additional payment to the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum because he said it would be unfair to others who had seen their city funding cut by 20 percent.

Although the council had voted 7-0 to pay $18,400 to fully restore seafood museum funding that had been cut a year ago, and only five positive votes are needed to override the mayor’s veto, Holloway said he felt compelled to veto the measure.

The City Council had voted to fully restore the funding to the museum after learning that the administration had failed to update contracts with the museum to reflect the funding reduction when it was made at this time last year.

The mayor also questioned paying the museum $2,000 a month to display the city’s logo on the sails of its two schooners “when there is no evidence that either schooner has been in the water for months” and he called for accountability in museum operations after being presented with a past-due bill from a vendor who had been hired to repair one of the schooners.

“I cannot sit by idly and not raise questions about these issues,” Holloway said. “There should be results –- and there must be accountability — where public tax dollars are being spent. And, make no mistake: privately-managed museums in Biloxi have evolved into multi-million-dollar endeavors that have come to expect a growing level of public funding.”

To restore the seafood museum funding, Holloway said, would be “unfair to the dozens of agencies that have absorbed 20 percent reductions in city funding. It’s unfair to taxpayers and municipal employees who have endured financial challenges over the past several years, while funding for the seafood museum has been gone unchanged all the while.”

The city has three contracts with the seafood museum: a $60,000 management agreement to operate a museum, a $24,000 advertising agreement to display the city logo on the sails of the two schooners, and an $8,000 sponsorship of the museum’s summer camp. The City Council last year voted to reduce funding for each by 20 percent – from a total of $92,000 to $73,600 — when across-teh-board cuts were made in discretionary spending.

The contracts have been reduced to show the lower amounts for the approaching fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, but council members balked at the administration’s proposal to formally make the revisions retroactive.

In his two-page veto message, Holloway agreed that the contracts should have been updated last year when the funding cuts were made. “However,” the mayor said, “the museum management was aware of the 20 percent reduction when it was made a year ago. In fact, at the time, museum leaders asked the administration to allow the monthly payments to continue at the $7,000 per month rate instead of the being reduced to $5,600 a month. The administration agreed to do this, but warned the museum that funding would be exhausted about nine months into the year since the council had decreased funding.”

Added the mayor: Everyone who needed to be aware of the funding reduction was aware of it.

The veto package: To see a PDF of the veto, along with the supporting documents, click here.

Online version: To see the text-only version of the veto message, click here.