Board’s vote split on creating new voting precinct

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Board’s vote split on creating new voting precinct

By Rupert Howell
Supervisors voted 2-2 on District Three Supervisor John Thomas’  failed motion to establish a new voting precinct in Crowder and also agreed  during Monday’s recess meeting in Batesville to negotiate with a former sheriff’s deputy on a wage and hour dispute.

Thomas’ motion followed a February 9 request by Crowder mayor Stephen Stanton to split the Tocowa balloting precinct so Crowder residents would not have so far to travel on election day by establishing a polling place in Crowder.

Former Panola County Circuit Clerk Joe Reid met with supervisors and voiced his opposition noting how board attorney Bill McKenzie and the late supervisor board president Robert Avant had worked “hours and hours” to consolidate lesser used voting precincts and polling places while following a recommendation of former Secretary of State Eric Clark to help reduce election costs.

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The matter will come up again April 6 when the full five-member board next meets in Sardis. District One supervisor James Birge was not present at Monday’s meeting causing the rare tie vote.

Voting for and seconding Thomas’ motion was District Two supervisor Vernice Avant. Districts Four and Five supervisors Kelly Morris and Cole Flint, respectively, voted against the motion.
Flint said he had heard from former Election Commission President Runt McMinn who advised against the addition of the precinct. Flint stated he had a little used precinct that should be combined in his district.

Morris also noted that some of his polling places were within a “rock’s throw” of each other and should be considered for consolidation.

Reid explained that during party primary elections as many as eight poll workers are required and in the past they sometimes almost outnumbered total voters.

Also rare for Panola supervisors was  an executive session where members vote to empty the room for private discussions. Following the recommendation of Cleveland attorney Danny Griffith, supervisors closed the doors to discuss a legal matter concerning a wage and hour dispute of former Panola County lieutenant deputy Earl Burdette. Griffith represents the county’s insurance company.

Following the closed door session, Attorney McKenzie announced the board agreed to allow he and board president Morris to enter into mediation talks with Burdette.

That conference is slated for April 10 at the Federal Courthouse in Oxford.

Burdette worked under the past four sheriffs and presently is Como’s Police chief and candidate for District Two Constable.

His complaint filed in federal court charges that he wasn’t paid for overtime work or minimum wage during the years 2001-2012 when he worked for Panola County Sheriff’s Department.