One Victory at a Time
It's a small victory but they count too. Since this board took office, I have been sending in complaints to the Mississippi Ethics Commission and they're finally responding. I have several more but it's good to know that persistence is paying off. I've stated it over and over again that I'm aware of the process and how things are supposed to be conducted in a code charter municipality because I've attended meetings for 14 or more years. There are several boards that are in the news because they use executive session to discuss things they don't want citizens to know. Just this month, the board violated the Mississippi Open Meetings Act when potential mayoral candidate, Kent Crider, had a police officer waiting in the hallway to speak with the board during executive session. No one knew who this man was but it was obvious he was a police officer. It seems that the officer was there are Crider's request and there was a plan to hire him as a warrant officer for the City of Lumberton. The officer was going to serve warrants free of charge but he and Crider wanted the City of Lumberton to provide the unidentified man with a patrol car. Yes, you read that right. We have 1.5 police cars in Lumberton but Crider, the man that wants to be your next mayor, want the City of Lumberton to provide someone with a patrol car so he can serve warrants.
The papers posted above are from a complaint filed in June of this year. Based on the paperwork, the elected officials of Lumberton were found to be in violation of the Open Meetings Act. According to the response, none of the elected officials could recall the meeting; not even the Mayor Pro Tempore, Cora Rogers who's going to try to do right. Maybe it's just me but I can't imagine forgetting an executive session where I was handed a stack of printed pages from the Lumberton Informer but that's another drawback of having so many elderly people serving are our representatives. If you can't rely on the elderly to tell the truth then who can you rely on? I count it a small victory but there are other complaints that have yet to be addressed. In the response, the Mississippi Ethics Commission stated the following:
"From the complaint and the response, it is clear the board failed to indicate a sufficiently specific reason to the public for entering an executive session. The minutes simply state that the board "discuss[ed] and vote[d] to close meeting and go into Executive Session regarding personnel reasons." The Complainant,upon communication from an Alderperson's spouse, was led to believe that the executive session discussion revolved around him and his blog. In reviewing this case, the hearing officer herein was advised that all of the persons who attended the executive session have no recollection of what was discussed. This situation is epitome of a board's complete failure both to announce during the meeting and to record in its minutes a specific reason for entering executive session. The board's failure is so blatant that even the board members could not recall matters discussed. As such, the board violated the Open Meetings Act by failing to announce during the meeting and to record in its minutes a meaningful reason with sufficient specificity for entering executive session on June 16, 2015."
There's a option to request a hearing in this matter but since the board has been put on notice, I will monitor their reasoning for going into executive session. There's not many things that are discussed in executive session that could not be discussed in the open meeting. The Lumberton board is using executive session to throw their rocks while hiding their hands. In case they didn't know, yelling from the hallway that "executive session is now in session" is not a meaningful reason with sufficient specificity for entering executive session. A win is a win and I will make sure I record all their procedures when they go into another executive session. The next time I file a complaint, it will include a video instead of a copy of text messages.