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City engineer placed on 6-month probation

 

Carl Smith

 

Starkville Aldermen placed City Engineer Edward Kemp on six-month probation after almost two hours of closed-door discussions with him, the city planner and developer Clayton Richardson Tuesday. 

 

Aldermen gave no reasoning behind their move, and the city did not disclose a vote breakdown when officials announced the personnel matter. 

 

Kemp's probationary period begins immediately. 

 

The board tasked Chief Administrative Officer Taylor Adams to monitor Kemp's job performance during the probation and report his findings back to aldermen. 

 

Before heading to executive session, Ward 3 Alderman David Little moved Richardson's public appearance on his proposed development to executive session, citing potential litigation against the city. Richardson has a proposed retail project, dubbed the Shaggy Hound development, that would sit near Starkville High School at the corner of Louisville Street and Yellow Jacket Drive. 

 

Shaggy Hound, a dog grooming and daycare center, operates its business near the proposed development on Louisville Street. 

 

The board also approved an executive session motion accepting Richardson's site plan for the Shaggy Hound development and directed its staff to issue construction-facilitating permits once city-mandated conditions are met with a driveway island proposal. 

 

"I want to make it clear that the city of Starkville is open for business, and we welcome all business into our community, including retail development," said Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins after the executive session motions were read aloud. 

 

With Tuesday's action, Kemp became the third city employee to be placed on six-month probation by the board of aldermen since their term began July 1. Personnel Director Randy Boyd was given the same review days into the board's term, while Sanitation and Environmental Services Director Emma Gandy was additionally suspended 10 days without pay in December. 

 

Other high level personnel issues played out in the board's first nine months in office. Former CAO Lynn Spruill was relieved of her duties by incoming aldermen in July; former Municipal Court Clerk Debra Wood resigned her position in October after aldermen gave her the choice to leave or be fired; and former police Chief David Lindley retired in December after the board placed him on administrative leave a month earlier. 

 

In each instance, aldermen did not give a reason for the personnel moves. 

 

Additionally, former Community Developer William Snowden resigned his post in December after the board granted him six weeks of medical leave in October. 

 

Past reports show Richardson has a history of criticizing various city ordinances. In 2009, he targeted the city's storm water and sidewalk rules, saying the regulations were too strict and scaring off developers. Richardson would even go on to ask the city's transportation committee to rescind the sidewalk ordinance, a move only aldermen could accomplish. 

 

Before aldermen approved a review process of both ordinances last year, Richardson again lamented sidewalk and landscaping rules, saying his potential developments could cost almost $150,000 due to the two ordinances. 

 

Aldermen reinstated Kemp's position as a department head in January. Department heads are employees who serve at the will and pleasure of the board, meaning they can be forced out with a majority vote.

 

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch

 

 

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