May 10, 2014 11:02:03 PM
Starkville will vigorously defend itself in a state ethics complaint alleging aldermen tend to business in secret meetings outside public view, board attorney Chris Latimer said Friday.
The complaint asks the state for a full investigation into what it calls a pattern of activity dating back to July 1 when the current administration took office.
It specifically highlights a comment made by Ward 2 Alderman Lisa Wynn during a February Starkville School District Board of Trustees appointment.
"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 them," she said on Feb. 18.
Aldermen went behind closed doors Tuesday and acknowledged the complaint. Mayor Parker Wiseman acknowledged the city received the complaint on Wednesday.
The city has 14 days upon receipt of the complaint to file its response. 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.
A Freedom of Information Act request by The Dispatch shows Wynn sent an email from a private account setting up board business, an act that partially ties into the gist of the complaint.
The Dispatch issued a FOIA last year for copies of emails between aldermen after Wynn and Ward 3 Alderman David Little stumped for a legislative review of the city's sidewalk and landscaping ordinances.
From a private email address -- email@example.com -- Wynn acted in her official capacity as an alderman by notifying the rest of the board that she would add a comprehensive review request to board business at the upcoming meeting. She detailed her upcoming actions by saying she would express her concerns over the rules in the form of a merit and then motion to task former then-Community Development Director William Snowden with handling the review and presenting his findings in November.
Wynn signed the email by tagging her name with "(A2)," or Ward 2 alderman.
A second ethics complaint stemming from the school board appointment was filed against Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn, sources close to the situation confirmed this week.
Vaughn cast a vote in the school board appointment after the Miss. Ethics Commission warned him in 2010 to cease voting in school matters since he is related to an SSD employee.
After Vaughn's February vote, he told The Dispatch that his daughter works for the school system. He participated in the vote, he said, because she does not live with him.
Two other aldermen -- Jason Walker and Scott Maynard, of Wards 4 and 5, respectively -- recused themselves from the vote because of family ties to SSD. Walker's wife is affiliated with the school system, while Maynard's son also works for Starkville public schools.
Maynard confirmed he recused himself even though his son does not live with him.
Latimer says he has not seen the Vaughn complaint as he was traveling after the Tuesday board of aldermen meeting.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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