May 7, 2014 9:58:53 AM
An Open Meetings Act complaint against Starkville aldermen alleges Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn and other city representatives repeatedly participate in secret meetings and seeks a full state investigation into a pattern that dates to July 1.
The city has 14 days upon receipt of the complaint to file its response. The city is believed to have been notified of the complaint Monday. The Miss. Ethics Commission could dismiss the petition or schedule hearings on the matter.
Starkville was previously warned about potential Open Meetings Act violations after a complaint was filed by resident William McGovern.
The Open Meetings Act complaint specifically targets Wynn's comments made during February's Starkville School District Board of Trustees appointment, in which the board ousted 10-year school board veteran and former President Eddie Myles in favor of Juliette Weaver-Reese. Myles appointment -- specifically how the board handled the matter -- became a flash point of dissent from members of the public and a source of contention at the board table. Myles missed a deadline to submit his letter of intent for reappointment, but his name was added back to list by Mayor Parker Wiseman once Myles notified city officials of his desire to seek a third term.
Myles and Weaver-Reese were denied an opportunity to interview for the position, and the partial board -- Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker and Ward 5 Alderman Scott Maynard -- recused themselves due to family ties with SSD -- approved the new school board member.
The complaint specifically highlights Wynn's comments that night as an indicator that aldermen are tending to business outside of the public's purview.
"Sometimes as board members we have to make decisions behind the scenes that some of you may not understand, and they are quite difficult. Tonight was one of those," Wynn said on Feb. 18.
Two months prior to the school appointment, Ward 6 Aldermen and Board President Roy A. Perkins attempted to show the city makes every attempt possible to notify municipal board members of their expiring terms when former Ward 4 Alderman Richard Corey was nominated to fill a Starkville Heritage Commission vacancy.
This term, the board also approved at least one appointment the day the applicant submitted his letter of intent.
Sources: More complaints stemming
An additional complaint stemming from the February school board fiasco is also either in the works or already filed against Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn, a source close to the situation said.
While Maynard and Walker recused themselves from the vote because of family ties to SSD, Vaughn participated. Vaughn confirmed to The Dispatch that night that his daughter works for the school system. He participated in the vote, he said, because she does not live with him.
Walker's wife is tied to SSD, while Maynard's son works for the district. Maynard later confirmed his son does not live with him.
City minutes show Vaughn recused himself in many school board appointments since 2010. That year, he seconded Perkins' motion to appoint Walter Conley to the school board. The vote failed 4-2, with Perkins and Vaughn casting the only "Yea" votes. Former Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk's motion to appoint Susan Tomlinson would be approved 5-2, with Perkins and Vaughn opposing.
Mayor Parker Wiseman would go on to veto the action, and Lee Brand, who currently sits on the school board, was appointed in May 2010 with a 4-0 vote. Sistrunk abstained from voting.
The Dispatch reported then that Vaughn and former Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas recused themselves from the interview and appointment processes because they both had immediate family members working in the school district.
The Dispatch reported that both were advised by the Miss. Ethics Commission to withdraw from the proceedings to avoid any appearance of impropriety.
Weaver-Reese was nominated by Sistrunk for an expiring board seat in 2011, but her appointment was defeated in a 3-2 vote. Eric Heiselt was then appointed to the board in a 4-1 decision.
Dumas and Vaughn did not participate in either vote. Both aldermen also recused themselves for the board's unanimous 2012 appointment of school board member Jenny Turner.
In January, Vaughn took exception to months of public criticism directed at him and fellow aldermen by lashing out and describing such statements as a "disgrace in the sight of God.
"You elected all seven of us to serve, but you're so disgraceful and so unfaithful (to the city)," he said in January. "It's always something bad that this board is doing. It's a shame on you all. It's a disgrace in the sight of God."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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