September 2, 2017 9:56:31 PM
The contents of this article have been modified since its original posting.
Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins indirectly suggested Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller should recuse from any upcoming vote dealing with Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Board of Trustees candidate Sumner Davis, who leads a Mississippi State University Extension department that employs Miller on a full-time basis.
During Friday's board work session, Perkins said he was not suggesting there was a direct and apparent conflict if Miller participates in a vote on Davis' potential nomination but he would recuse himself "if I was sitting in judgment on my immediate supervisor."
Perkins, who went on to say Davis could "make a recommendation in the future that affects (Miller's) compensation," added: "I have no beef in this. I just want to make sure we're legal. I know if I was in the position, I'd want to be very conservative about it because this is a very (important) vote.
"We just have to make sure we're completely legal with every vote cast," he said.
Miller, who was absent from Friday's meeting, said he has "every intention of voting" and looks forward to "hearing from the candidates" Tuesday.
"My vote for the current school board position is not in violation of any state statute or constitution. Anyone who suggests otherwise is making the school board appointment political and doesn't have the best interest of our school district in mind," Miller said after Friday's meeting.
Aldermen are expected to interview Davis, Lisa Long and Debra Prince Tuesday ahead of picking one of the three to fill the seat Sept. 19.
While briefing the issue for aldermen Friday, board attorney Chris Latimer said the key to defining impropriety is determining whether a board member would receive a benefit from their arrangement and vote - whether "money flows back to the board member," specifically.
He did not say Miller's participation in a vote involving Davis would be improper or illegal.
"The (Mississippi Ethics Commission) normally says that to avoid the appearance of impropriety, the safe thing to do is recuse because then you don't open yourself up to any questioning. But that is a personal decision that each alderman makes. There's no law that compels recusal," he said.
All three school board candidates submitted letters of interest for the vacant seat in July, but Friday's meeting was the first time any alderman brought up the potential issue with Davis and Miller.
Davis also serves as a governmental training specialist and previously represented Ward 1 for two terms. He was also a candidate in the city's last school board appointment.
Long is a research associate with MSU's Social Science Research Center.
Prince's application marks her third attempt to become a school board trustee. She is an associate professor with the MSU Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Foundations.
The incoming trustee will fill the remainder of Anne Stricklin's term, which expires in 2019.
Stricklin's early exit from the school board was expected after the University of Florida hired her husband, Scott, to lead its athletics department last year.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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