| By Billy Davis
An assistant Panola County road manager who was fired from his job this week claims he was let go for being a "whistle blower," but his bosses say the supposed whistle blowing stemmed from a misunderstanding.
At the "first Monday" supervisors meeting this week, David Arnold was handed a termination notice by county road manager Lygunnah Bean at the behest of Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins.
A longtime employee of the road department, Arnold had been suspended with pay in recent weeks until his official firing Monday.
Arnold contacted The Panolian after the supervisors meeting, saying he was fired for asking questions about the use of county-owned culverts in the Wildwood subdivision east of Batesville.
Reached Wednesday about Arnold’s firing and accusations, Perkins and Bean said Arnold was fired for failing to follow the "chain of command" that included Bean as Arnold’s immediate boss.
Arnold also acknowledged he was told he was fired for the same reason.
Bean said the use of the culverts was legal because they are located on the county right-of-way beside Wildwood’s county-owned roads.
The right-of-way extends 75 feet beyond the roadway, Bean said. He made his case by providing a subdivision plat as well as a legal document, an Amendment to Restrictive Covenants, which notes the 75-foot setback from the roadside.
The notarized document, dated August 2003, was signed by developers Larry Montgomery and Chase Montgomery.
Perkins said the county road department was asked by Chase Montgomery to supply the culverts to help with drainage problems.
Even if the culverts are located on private property, Perkins said, their use would be legal under state law.
"If it takes that to move the water away from the road or something like that, I’m sure it would be okay," Perkins told The Panolian.
Perkins added, however, that he depends on Bean for the legality of such issues since county supervisors in the unit system aren’t supposed to be involved in road department work "on a day to day basis."
Arnold is being represented by Sardis attorney Jimmy McClure, who said Thursday his client met with County Administrator David Chandler on Wednesday.
Reached Thursday morning, Chandler said his dual role as county personnel director means he’s the first stop in a county employee’s "grievance procedure."
"After I investigate the firing, I make a formal recommendation," Chandler said. "If I agree with the firing, the employee can then appeal to the supervisors."
McClure said he hopes for an open meeting if Arnold is not reinstated and the appeal goes to the Board of Supervisors.