County Vacancies

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 13, 2008

Make county vacancies public

Mississippi state law does not require it, but Panola County supervisors should enact a policy immediately to publicize any and all job openings that become available in Panola County government.   

The topic surfaced this week when supervisors discussed hiring a replacement to head the county’s solid waste department, minus any sort of public notification, following the resignation of its longtime manager.

Very telling at that meeting was an exchange between the president of the board, Robert Avant, and a citizen advocate, Bob Bryant, who attends the county meetings. After Avant instructed County Administrator David Chandler to “go on and hire somebody,” Bryant questioned the ethics of allowing the county administrator to interview and hire a person without first publicizing the job opening.

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“Anybody can apply,” Avant correctly responded.

“That knows about it,” Bryant then correctly observed.

Avant was correct, but so was Bryant. Panola County government continues to fill its job openings with a dubious policy that relies on word of mouth. That policy is a close cousin to yet another policy known as Who You Know, and of course neither policy comes even close to being honest and fair to the general public.

Panola County government employs more than 250 workers in chancery, circuit and tax collector/assessor offices, justice court, emergency management, the sheriff’s department and jail, the road department and the solid waste department. Those jobs employ office workers, custodians, truck drivers, heavy equipment operators, jailers, dispatchers and sheriff’s deputies.

Unless state law plainly forbids it, an opening at any of those jobs should, at a minimum, be posted at the county courthouses in Batesville and Sardis for the public to see.

The position of solid waste manager is, first, a public job, and Panola County taxpayers were forking out a salary of $47,600 during the current fiscal year for that job. With such a generous salary, all Panola Countians should enjoy the opportunity to apply for that position and once it’s filled be assured that whoever is hired was chosen only after a fair and honest interview process.

After Monday’s county meeting, at least one county supervisor has told this newspaper he plans to press for a county policy to post job openings. Panola Countians should find out which supervisor is mulling that effort, thank him for attempting it, and encourage him to pursue it.

Other supervisors may balk at the idea of posting county jobs, and if they do they should be asked to defend the status quo, which is really indefensible in the 21st century.

Good government operates best with open government, not with word of mouth or who you know.

For the solid waste manager’s job and all others, the hiring process should begin by notifying the public that it has begun.