UPDATED: Two Lakes Supporters Helped Finance Defeat of Pearl Mayor | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

UPDATED: Two Lakes Supporters Helped Finance Defeat of Pearl Mayor

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A Laurel newspaper will close its doors this Thursday.

Also see: McGowan Gave $6,000 to Secretive PAC

Fans of a controversial plan to develop the Pearl River had better luck installing a pro-"Two Lakes" mayor in the little town of Pearl than in the state's capital city this month. The Jackson Free Press today discovered that oilman and "Two Lakes" developer John McGowan's company, as well as several engineers who have worked with McGowan Working Partners, gave thousands of dollars to the campaign of Republican Alderman Brad Rogers, who defeated Mayor Jimmy Foster in the May 5 primary. Foster was on record as an opponent to McGowan's ambitious development project that the developer says will provide the best flood control for the Pearl River.

Rogers' campaign-finance report, requested Thursday by the Jackson Free Press and faxed today by the Pearl city clerk's office, shows that at least $5,500 came from McGowan and associates, and reveals that several of Rogers' donors also gave money in April to the Better Jackson PAC, which did not file any campaign reports prior to the mayoral runoff election in Jackson, as revealed last week by the Jackson Free Press. Voters learned three hours before the polls closed, through the Jackson Free Press, that McGowan had given $6,000 to the secretive Better Jackson PAC, and his "dear friends" in the Pruett Oil family had given several thousand more. He told the JFP later that he regretted donating to the PAC.

In the Pearl mayoral race, McGowan Working Partners of Jackson gave $1,000; the company's president David Russell of Jackson gave $1,000 (he is listed as a self-employed engineer); engineer Joe Haney of Brandon gave $1,000 (listed as self-employed); engineer Charles Johnson of Jackson gave $500 (listed as self-employed); and engineer Willem Lamar of Jackson gave $2,000 (listed as self-employed). In addition, engineer Richard Miller of Jackson gave $2,000; Miller is also listed as a self-employed engineer. Both Miller and Lamar also donated $1,000 each to the Better Jackson PAC, alongside McGowan and friends. Rogers' report did not include the dates of any contributions, which is required on the form.

Russell, Haney, Johnson and Lamar are all partners with McGowan Working Partners and thus work independently of each other, spokesman Dallas Quinn told the Jackson Free Press on Tuesday.

Rogers' report covered Jan. 1, 2009 through April 25, 2009, and was not stamped by the clerk, but "mailed 4/28/09"—the deadline for the primary—according to a handwritten notation. The cover sheet lists a total of $34,425 in contributions, but the five pages only list $23,798, which means that $10,627 is not itemized in the report. On Tuesday, Rogers told the Jackson Free Press that the discrepancy represented contributions under $200, which he is not required to itemize under state law.

Rogers reported $31,000.86 in expenditures and said he had $3,424.14 leftover cash on hand. In addition to associates of McGowan Working Partners and Better Jackson PAC donors, Rogers' largest contributors were William C. Tyndall, who gave three contributions totaling $7,500, and Gene Newman, who gave $5,000. Tyndall owns T&T Motors, a used-car lot at 3057 Hwy. 80 East, and Newman owns a bails bonding business.

Rogers told the Jackson Free Press on Tuesday that he only supports giving the Two Lakes project a fair shake.

"Everybody—you all or whoever—has got me painted as a Two Lakes supporter. I am not a Two Lakes supporter," Rogers said. "I am for adding Two Lakes to the NEPA document to be studied along with all the other options," he added, referring to a document that the Levee Board must submit for federal approval of its flood control plan.

As for whether Two Lakes should be the Levee Board's preferred plan, Rogers emphasized that he held no opinions, having never attended a Levee Board meeting.

"I believe it's important to look at all the alternatives and come up with the best solution to the problem," Rogers said. "If the finding scome back from that NEPA document saying that levees are the best plan, Brad Rogers is going to be for just levees."

"I don't know enough about it to make an informed decision," he confessed.

The numerous McGowan-affiliated contributors who were listed as self-employed on his campaign finance report provided those descriptions themselves, Rogers said. Describing his campaign as a "broad, grassroots" effort, he noted that he has also received contributions from engineeers Carl Ray Furr and Joe Waggoner, whose studies for the Levee Board have looked favorably on a competing Lower Lakes project.

"I have support from both sides of the aisle," Rogers said.

The JFP could not reach McGowan's spokesman or the engineers Friday for comment.

Rogers will face Democrat Donald W. Jackson in the general election on June 2. His report, also faxed today, showed no contributions or disbursements and no cash-on-hand.

The city clerk also faxed the finance report for incumbent Mayor Foster, who was defeated in the May 5 primary. His report stood in contrast to Rogers' in that his largest listed contribution was from three individuals for $1,000 each—"boat captain" Roger Merchant, Wisteria Gardens health-care facility and Coleman Hammons Construction Company, with the rest coming in lower. Flowood Mayor Gary Rhoads gave $500 to Foster; he also opposed the Two Lakes concept.

Foster's report stated that he raised $24,070, with $12,270.90 in disbursements, but only $11,615 in contributions were listed on the form, which covered Jan. 1, 2009, through April 25, 2009, as Rogers' form did. Foster could not be reached for comment today. On Tuesday after Memorial Day, the JFP will contact the city clerk to find out if each man filed reports detailing the rest of the contributions.

Two Lakes supporters have not been shy of late about saying that Foster needed to go in order for Two Lakes to rise again, even as it has been defeated in several forms over the years.

Northside Sun Publisher Wyatt Emmerich started an editorial this week: "With the defeat of Pearl mayor Jimmy Foster by Brad Rogers, John McGowan's Two Lakes plan is now front and center. It's hard to overestimate how important this is to the future of Jackson." The end of the editorial teases about the politics played over Foster's ousting: "We don't know if Foster's opposition to the popular McGowan plan got him defeated, but it probably didn't help. Sooner or later, democracy has a way of making politicians accountable. Once approved, Two Lakes could become a reality in just a few years. The epicenter of the metro area will turn from flood land to lakefront property, paving the way for a rejuvenated Jackson."

And Two Lakes supporters really wanted Marshand Crisler to be mayor and Foster no longer to be in order to get a clear path to become the "locally preferred" flood-control plan. Former Mayor Harvey Johnson Jr., who defeated Crisler last week in the runoff, had supported an earlier plan by McGowan, but has said the city must be careful to support the best plan at this stage, and has not thrown full support behind McGowan and associates' latest version of "Two Lakes," which will require the government to take about 15,000 acres of private property to be converted to the project and its private development.

A May 18 Mississippi Business Journal article appeared right before the Jackson runoff with the headline: "Two Lakes Project Still Kicking with New Leadership on the Horizon." The article then quoted McGowan's right-hand engineer on those hopes for the mayoral outcomes: "(Robert) Muller said both Pearl and Jackson are soon to get new mayors, which could change the makeup of the Levee Board. He said a decision from the current board would be meaningless. So, he and the plan's backers will bide their time until after the June 2 general elections."

Bide their time, and write checks, it seems.

CORRECTION: This article has been revised with information and comments from Dallas Quinn, of McGowan Working Partners, and Brad Rogers, who returned calls this weekend and spoke to the Jackson Free Press on Tuesday.

Previous Comments

ID
148105
Comment

I understand the politics involved in this "two lakes" game, thanks only to the JFP. I am, however, completely in the "who cares and why does it matter" club in relation to it. The JFP keeps insinuating, to me, that this is almost like a Clinton sex scandal that is supposed to rock our world. Is is possible to get all parties involved in a "town hall meeting" type of event where everyone who knows little or nothing about all of the hoop-la-la together so interested parties can quit blogging the hell outta the subject and get down to business about the whole proposal? I know back in '04 there was a meeting recorded with the corp. and the McGowan guys. If I can help in any way in getting it done, I will. I, along with tens of thousands of others, just do not understand the whole picture and why it is either a good thing or such a bad thing for our city. The ten or fifteen people who get irate on either side of this deal are the only people who comment. Thanks D

Author
tye d.
Date
2009-05-22T23:18:11-06:00
ID
148106
Comment

Said like only Tye can. ;-) I say whatever public dialogues can happen, great. We'll have a big story next week that will likely help people up, but that needs to be just the beginning of a very public and transparent conversation. I agree with you, Tye, that people simply know too little to even have a good conversation about it. That's the part that scares me. Now, I'm going to bed and not investigating a damn thing for three days, God willin'. Hopefully, it'll be a slow news weekend, and I won't be on here much. Cheers, all, and don't hurt each other.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-22T23:35:38-06:00
ID
148108
Comment

Would the Two Lakes project be a personal financial advantage to the owners of the Northside Sun and the sushi eaters? That would make this story a real octopus!

Author
footsy
Date
2009-05-23T06:19:58-06:00
ID
148111
Comment

The story keeps growing legs, and we'll keep following them. Any help from readers is always appreciated.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-23T07:47:35-06:00
ID
148112
Comment

Disagree with Tye, only in that I feel we should know more about the political aspects of this debate. But I concur that people (political contributors or not) need to get together, cut through the bull and cover the practical aspects of this thing -- it's about flood control, right?

Author
blogtw4
Date
2009-05-23T07:49:22-06:00
ID
148113
Comment

it's about flood control, right? Well, that's a big question. Mr. McGowan doesn't wanat a "flood control" plan that does not include his development vision. So what is the priority? Of course, it has to be the *community's* priority, and we need to look closely at McGowan's newest plan -- remember it's not the same one on the table and rejected all these years, so needs a fresh look, so it can't be rushed -- as well as alternatives. If we can get as many people as possible to finally pay attention, we can get something done once and for all. The fact that we watchdog and raise flags and call for people to get more educated will *always* will result in cries of "bias" from special interests, but that goes with the journalistic territory. That's what we're trying to do: get people to pay attention to the details. We'll take our hits from the McGowan plan supporters and special interests for doing that, as always. But our mission in the community is not to make special interests happy; it's to inform the community as a whole. So here we go; we will re-route much of our politics-covering resources to this project for the foreseeable future. We hope everyone gets interested, reads everything in site about it, and engages in debates and conversations. We will do what we can to give you the information you need to have a full conversation, and encourage everyone to get below the surface on it. We will gird ourselves agains the inevitable attacks of "bias" because we want full disclosure. Feel free to throw us questions you'd like to see answered, and we'll see what we can do. Adam and Todd are focusing on details of the various flood-control plans; Ward and I are focusing on the politicking around them, such as this effort to oust the anti-Two Lakes Pearl mayor. Let's get 'er done!

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-23T07:55:50-06:00
ID
148114
Comment

there is a whole lot of copy devoted to mcgowan's expenditures on two lakes. but not the "other" side. the "other side" is the group of engineer professionals/insiders that have controlled the levee board and have milked the flood control issue before the board for years with study after study. where have the MILLIONS of dollars been spent by the anti-two lakes majority of the levee board? who are the chosen engineers, lawyers and consultants that have continued to "study" all of the proposals for what seems to be the sole purpose of lining their pockets with money. and, that money is tax dollars, not some private contributions by an eccentric oil man. you JFP guys are pretty damn good at following the money trail. why don't you find out from the state auditor, legislative folks with jurisdiction over the subject, or your own public record requests just how much many has been spent, who directed the money, who benefited from the money and what have been the results. i don't know the real motive of the anti-two lakes folks that have controlled the levee board for the last decade or so. but, i do know some games are being played and they are not innocent. also, has mcgowan done anything illegal with his contributions and efforts? and, i'd still like to know what he has to personally gain from a two-lakes development rather than the other proposals the levee board has in the past supported. you're doing a pretty good job of villainizing mcgowan and he may deserve it. I don't know. It just seems to me that there is a hell of lot more political intrigue going on on "the other side" that we just haven't heard anything about from JFP. Like i said, follow the money. on BOTH sides of this battle.

Author
msnative1943
Date
2009-05-23T08:15:02-06:00
ID
148115
Comment

Please let me know if i can assist in any efforts to gather people to discuss Jackson flood control as it concerns our Jackson Pearl.

Author
daniel johnson
Date
2009-05-23T08:46:09-06:00
ID
148116
Comment

donna, i very much appreciate your last entry at 8:55 am. I applaud JFP for doing its job as you articulate it. it is exactly what i want and what i think most level thinking people want. i do caution you, however, to please not go overboard in villainizing mcgowan and other two-lakes supporters and losing sight of the big picture because you've got some rich old, eccentric oil man that has thrown a lot of money at his pet project. you and todd have made it clear in the past that you have been adamantly opposed to the two lakes plan. you've written about it, editorialized about it, blogged about, and almost all of it has been in opposition, as i recall. the "gotcha" stuff about mcgowan is interesting for sure, and i'm sure, as reporters, you guys are probably giddy over it. but, the "main thing is the main thing" as they say. consequently, there is a HUGE burden on you guys to make sure that your reporting from this point forward is exactly as you are claiming it will be: unbiased, balanced and fact-based. the jfp has been a terrific vehicle for shedding light on significant and important issues facing this community. but, given your prior anti-two lakes bias, to be effective in this future public dialogue, you're going to have to prove that you are, in fact, neutral and unbiased. otherwise, mcgowan is going to become the underdog and will get a boost that you may not intend.

Author
msnative1943
Date
2009-05-23T08:47:14-06:00
ID
148117
Comment

Thanks so much to the JFP for being such a reliable watchdog on this issue. We will certainly have them to thank for making sure the community has a voice in this major ecological development.

Author
daniel johnson
Date
2009-05-23T08:51:56-06:00
ID
148119
Comment

Msnative, no one is trying to "villianize" Mr. McGowan. He has been in the driving seat on this for years, even if he hasn't been able to convince enough people that his is the best idea, yet. And the truth is that he has actually presented several ideas; it's the latest one that needs a thorough public vetting. It is misinformed for anyone to argue that the current plan has undergone adequate public scrutiny. In the past, we have done homework on plans that Mr. McGowan has presented, and they fell short for us, and we editorialized on that (and showed that we are the only media outlet to seriously question his plans). This is what good newspapers do: homework, and then take a position as needed. It is not "bias" to do that; it is our job. The charges of "bias" are spurious; we don't have a dog in the hunt, per se, other than community interests. In fact, you could argue that a more self-serving position would be to get behind McGowan's plan, whichever one is on the table at the moment, wholeheartedly as the Ledger and other media have done. "Bias" is one of the most hackneyed and over-used words in our language -- especially when used by special interests to attack critics of their ideas and candidates. We could be "biased" if this project benefited us (or some of our advertisers), and we refused to look closer at it or the politicking around it so we don't hurt our own self-interest. Watchdogging a project, and telling the truth about the maneuverings, is not "biased." Neither is taking a position we believe is best for the community once we've done our homework. That's what we're supposed to do. For the record, we have not taken an official position on McGowan's newest plan. Our position is total transparency and a community dialogue based on all the facts, as opposed to the plan passing because elected officials and their appointees are easily swayed by backroom politicking. We're calling on supporters who don't know what it entails to get to know what's it in so they are educated before signing on. We are calling for a real comparison to alternatives. We are calling on politicians and levee board members not to be "bought" by powerful self interests, and to prove that they aren't by showing the public a complete understanding of the pros and cons of what they are signing on for. We are fulfilling our burden, and we will continue to. If our doing that makes Two Lakes supporters try to turn a wealthy oilman and developer into "the underdog," then that is to be expected. I've been in this business long enough to know that, and I have seen such efforts a million times. Attacking the messenger has been around forever. We got the same kinds of criticisms when we first started critically covering Melton, by the way, and the Iraq War, and Ed Peters, and Bobby DeLaughter, and so on, and so on. We can't ethically stick our finger in the wind to see what needs to be watchdogged; we do our homework and then do our job. Or, as Todd always says: Do the right thing and wait. And you're welcome, daniel.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-23T10:00:15-06:00
ID
148120
Comment

And msnative, I haven't seen anything Mr. McGowan has done "illegal" with his contributions. The focus is more on what he is doing with his contributions to try to influence local elections in order to get his way. People need to know what's going on behind the scenes. The biggest problems I've seen with these campaign finance filings so far is the Jackson PAC not filling a donation report at all, as far as we can tell, before the afternoon of the runoff election -- flying directly against the spirit and letter of campaign finance law. (I have an ethical problem with the money than being used to pay for crime-hysteria mailers based on rankings the FBI call "baseless.") And I'm concerned about the condition of Rogers' report and what is left off of it. I'm also curious why all the engineers are listed as self-employed, but hope to learn that on Tuesday at the latest. So I take no position on it; just report it as we found it.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-23T10:03:53-06:00
ID
148123
Comment

daniel, rather ironically, you can thank Marshand Crisler for putting Two Lakes back on our radar. When he suddenly pledged undying support for Two Lakes in our editorial board interview with him, without us asking him about it, we all looked at each funny, and started paying attention to what was going on behind the scenes. And then, of course, the Better Jackson PAC's use of old Morgan Quitno numbers against Johnson. That trick from the past caught our eye, and thus we investigated the PAC and learned their bigger funders were McGowan and friends. Then, on the Pearl mayor's front, I read Wyatt Emmerich's column and the Mississippi Business Journal puff-piece and realized immediately that we needed to get these reports (which we will post PDFs of soon) and see who helped finance the defeat of Jimmy Foster. It's funny how what goes around comes around if you're paying attention. I always tell reporting students that investigative reporting is about simply being observant and questioning anything that sticks out. Often, you yank on one little thread, and it's remarkable what tumbles out after it. You've got to be the one willing to look when other people are distracted.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-23T10:19:53-06:00
ID
148131
Comment

Check it out. The Clarion-Ledger got in on the McGowan action today, actually doing a story that isn't a glowing endorsement of his project.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-23T16:25:31-06:00
ID
148133
Comment

msnative, i'm not sure it can be said that there is a portion of the levee board which opposes the various Twin Lakes plans that has been funded by some third party. i don't think there is a flow of money which is as one-dimensional as it is coming from the Twin Lakes crew. The fact is that the Levee Board has seemed to be in favor of the Twin Lake plan insofar as they have not seriously moved forward on any plans other than Twin Lakes. They were the ones who pushed for the massive community charrette and then refused to release the results of that study. From attending the community planning and education surrounding the Twin Lakes plan as presented by McGowan and/or the Levee Board, the opposition to Twin Lakes is a divergent set of community interests. Various mayors, community groups, individual citizens, and myriad separate scientific professionals have all questioned and doubted it from a variety of viewpoints. Asking to see a counter flow of money is a request which can't be fulfilled. i'm sure you're motives are pure, but they are likely setting up a false premise. As a past active member of the Pearl River Basin Coalition Steering Committee, i can attest to the fact that there was not a massive coordinated front against Twin Lakes. It just happened to be such a dubious proposal that widespread acceptance could not be reached...even with big names like Thad Cochran pushing Jackson to do it on the local news.

Author
daniel johnson
Date
2009-05-24T01:59:33-06:00
ID
148141
Comment

They were the ones who pushed for the massive community charrette and then refused to release the results of that study. daniel and others, do you know if *any* public money was spent on the charrette?

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-24T08:54:17-06:00
ID
148146
Comment

My comment was removed for some reason?

Author
LambdaRisen
Date
2009-05-24T20:15:51-06:00
ID
148147
Comment

LambdaRisen your post was libelous. you accused people of criminal acts. unless you've got something to back it up, you'd best be careful about such posts, even though you think they are anonymous. i'm sure the jfp people didn't want any legal liability for keeping the post online. if you really have evidence that public officials are engaging in illegal activities, you need to report it to the local D.A., or the mississippi ethics commission. i think they can now investigate allegations without disclosing the name of the complaining party. if you've got something then by all means do something with it.

Author
msnative1943
Date
2009-05-24T20:51:19-06:00
ID
148148
Comment

Why not have a design competition and have several firms propose designs for the flood control development? That would get us beyond the numbing discussion that surrounds the sole subject of Two Lakes and it would get the ball rolling efficient flood control measures for the city; as I would think that the sooner we get shovels in the ground, the more likely that federal funding would be available for this type of project.

Author
chip
Date
2009-05-24T21:05:39-06:00
ID
148157
Comment

We don't know if Lambda's post was libelous or not, and people who post here are liable for their own posts. However, as a practice and per the use agreement all of you follow to post here, the JFP does not allow readers to make factual allegations about specific people and organizations here unless we are privy to the evidence and know that they are true. Just because you say *you* know something isn't good enough. (And it certainly does not help when you're posting said allegations under a fake name.) If you have evidence of wrongdoing, you can also get it to the JFP, and we will look into it. Specific sources are needed, not simply allegations. I've deleted that comment and put Lambda in moderation, as I do with other people who do the same thing. That means you can still post, but your posts will be approved before showing up on the site.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-25T08:48:54-06:00
ID
148175
Comment

Note that this story is updated with comments from Brad Rogers, Republican nominee for Pearl mayor, as well as McGowan spokesman Dallas Quinn.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-26T15:24:42-06:00
ID
148176
Comment

Rogers can say he's giving it a fair shake and "has no opinion" but I assure you, money an opinion does make and he got a lot of it from the developers as noted in this story.

Author
LambdaRisen
Date
2009-05-26T16:13:56-06:00
ID
148177
Comment

All: Another update on this -- the article that Donna pointed to over the weekend in this snippet... Check it out. The Clarion-Ledger got in on the McGowan action today, actually doing a story that isn't a glowing endorsement of his project. ...is actually about 10 years old. When she linked to it the other day, the date on the piece said May 23, 2009; today it says May 26, 2009. Apparently the C-L's Web doo-dad is so broken that its archived stories don't date correctly. (Sigh.) http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/99999999/SPECIAL10/50125012/1245 So, according to McGowan's folks (who called) all that's taken care of now, the permitting is cool, the development is above board, etc. We'll look into it further (Donna and I drove out to the gate this weekend to see what we could see...it's interesting that it hasn't gotten any further than it has in 10 years), but for now, false alarm on the C-L doing a story this weekend. They didn't; it was their swank CMS screwing with our heads! (Donna may have even more choice words for the C-L once they get this issue out the door.)

Author
Todd Stauffer
Date
2009-05-26T16:31:56-06:00
ID
148178
Comment

No dates on their stories? Remarkable.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-26T16:50:04-06:00
ID
148209
Comment

I was wondering how I missed it in the paper. I couldn't wrap my head around the CL writing a web-only story (they have a hard enough time stringing sentences together for thier print edition).

Author
pjiv
Date
2009-05-27T16:41:37-06:00
ID
148228
Comment

Truly. It is a decade-old story, apparently, with last weekend's date at the top! I saw the link over the weekend on State Street Post blog, and linked it. It's really wacky that they can't figure out the most basic things about the Web. You can't even find most of their archives, and all of their old forums and such disappear every time they try a new format. We keep all of ours. (Right now, we have a symbol issue in archived material, with question marks showing up, but Vince is working on a site-wide fix, FYI.)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-05-28T09:46:40-06:00
ID
148364
Comment

The Ledger is so useless. They write this little ditty about the Pearl mayor's race today without ever mentioning all the money Two Lakes people pumped into Rogers' campaign (see above). And they could have even done it without crediting us for sniffing out the story; the documents are sitting in the Pearl city clerk's office after all. But the Ledger ain't gonna do anything to bring real criticism to its pet Two Lakes project. They haven't all these years; why start now? That would just show how poor and incomplete their reporting has been on it.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-06-02T14:06:42-06:00

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