| By Billy Davis
A motion by a Crenshaw alderman to hire three police officers died for lack of a second after his board colleague said he did not have a chance to review the city’s applications.
Crenshaw’s mayor and board of aldermen convened Friday evening for a special called meeting to vote on the police officer hiring and to hear from a part-time city employee who inspected the town’s water system.
Both items on the agenda centered around the wishes of Crenshaw Mayor Sylvester Reed, who recommended three hirings from a list of 10 applicants and refused to hear a report on the condition of the town’s water system.
To start the meeting, inspector Michael Purdy announced a report prepared for the Miss. Department of Health that he listed "everything that I found wrong," noting that some infrastructure had been fixed since he conducted his inspection days earlier.
Reed interrupted Purdy, however, and declared that discussing the health report was "illegal" since the meeting’s agenda did not specifically mention the reading of the report.
"Is that the one from the Mississippi Department of Health?" Reed asked.
"That’s right," Purdy responded.
"Okay, that wasn’t on the agenda," Reed said.
"Mayor, it’s all connected," protested Alderman David Whitsell.
"It’s not all connected," Reed replied.
Board attorney Mary Brown backed the mayor’s assertion, agreeing that the meeting’s agenda consisted of discussion of Purdy’s hiring contract with the city and the hiring of police officers.
The called meeting’s agenda, taped to the door of the board room, stated the meeting included two items: "Michael Purdy (Maint.)" and "Hiring police officers."
Purdy is a city inspector for the City of Sardis. He was hired by Crenshaw aldermen in a 3-2 vote to inspect the town’s water system, filling a job left empty after the former town inspector quit his job last summer.
Purdy put away the report and moved on to discussion of his inspection contract. He asked for $600 a month and a promise of back pay for previous months of work for the city, and the purchase of a second chlorine bottle for the town’s water system.
"If I have to change it, I want a second full bottle right there," Purdy said. "Right now there’s only one bottle."
Aldermen voted 3-0 to keep a second full bottle ready for use.
Responding to the back pay request, Brown told Purdy he could not legally be paid by the town until he signs a contract, but she assured him he could receive pay for previous work if she formally requests it in chancery court.
When the agenda moved to the police hirings, Reed noted that he and Police Chief Darryl Linzy had interviewed applicants the night before and the mayor personally narrowed a list of 10 applicants to three hirings. Then he asked for a motion to hire his recommendations.
"Mayor, is there a reason we didn’t get to see ’em?" asked Alderman David Whitsell.
"Get to see ’em ?" Reed asked.
"The applications for the officers," Whitsell explained.
"You can come by the office anytime. They’re never closed up or nothing," Reed said, raising his voice. "If you want to see them tonight, I can pass them down to you."
Whitsell also asked Reed how many of the applicants are certified, referring to officers who have undergone training at a state police academy. Reed did not answer the question.
Without naming the applicants, Reed said he was making three recommendations for hiring. Alderman Keith Pride then made a motion to accept the recommendation, but the motion died after Whitsell and Alderman Barbara Bradley refused to follow the motion with a second.
After waiting in silence for about 30 seconds, Reed declared the called meeting over. The room quickly emptied, but Brown brought back the aldermen to formally adjourn the meeting.
After the meeting, a reporter asked Reed why he decided to discuss the hiring contract but not the health department report since neither subjects were listed on the meeting’s agenda.
"(Michael Purdy) was to get up and tell us about the contract, and that’s it," Reed said. "It wasn’t anything else Michael was supposed to talk about but the contract. It was self-understood."
After the mayor and board of aldermen dismissed from the called meeting, the city officials assembled with the police chief in his office, presumably to discuss the hiring of police officers.
Outside the police chief’s office, Reed turned away a reporter who asked the mayor to sit in on the meeting.
"We’re just talking to the chief," the mayor said. "It’s not a meeting."
The mayor declared the meeting over when the reporter suggested that the closed meeting was likely breaking the state’s open meeting’s law by convening behind closed doors with a quorum of city officials.