John Howell’s Column
Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 24, 2007
In most bodies of public government that this newspaper or its affiliates cover by sending reporters to their public meetings and/or to review their public records, the resignation of an elected official would be an open, public act.
Not so in Crenshaw.
Last Thursday night during an executive session called to discuss “personnel issues,” Crenshaw alderman Keith Pride presented his letter of resignation. It caught the other elected officials — Mayor Sylvester Reed and aldermen Alberta Bradley, Marvin Phipps, Shirley Morgan, and David Whitsell — by such surprise that they apparently could not even comment on it when the executive session ended and the public was invited to return to the meeting room.
Following the return to the public session, town attorney Mary Brown reported that the board had acted on two items — the hiring of a janitor for the town library and overtime pay for a town employee, both arguably admissible items for executive session.
But the attorney must have been as taken aback as the elected officials who appointed her. She said not one word about the resignation so suddenly and unexpectedly thrust into their midst. (“Personnel issues” involving elected officials are not permissible exclusions to Mississippi’s Open Meetings Act.)
Tongues began to loosen only after the meeting had adjourned. Aldermen Alberta Bradley and David Whitsell said that Pride had handed the letter to the mayor. Bradley later confirmed that Pride had said when he handed in the letter that his resignation was effective immediately.
On Friday, Pride confirmed that he had resigned.
On Monday, Mayor Reed said: “We’re waiting to see if he is for sure.”
The silence and indecision marred what was otherwise an upbeat town meeting. Crenshaw’s financial consultants gave the town’s finances an “improved but be careful” report. The president of the county board of supervisors offered encouraging remarks about the pending opening at Rolando Curtis Foods.
And then came the weird turn of events with an alderman’s resignation.
We cover municipal governments and appointed commissions in Batesville, Como, Sardis, and Crenshaw and Water Valley and county governments and commissions in Panola and Yalobusha counties as well as school districts at North Panola, South Panola and Water Valley.
But for understated surprises, there’s no place like Crenshaw.