January 3, 2018 12:06:22 PM
The Starkville Board of Aldermen terminated Parks and Recreation Director Herman Peters, effective immediately, during a lengthy executive session Tuesday.
Aldermen placed Peters and Parks and Recreation administrative assistant Dianne Evans on unpaid administrative leave during the board's Dec. 19 meeting due to "irregularities" that surfaced regarding both employees.
On Dec. 29, Evans turned herself in to Starkville Police Department for embezzlement. An affidavit The Dispatch received through a public records request said she embezzled $2,000 in her capacity as an administrative assistant for the Parks and Recreation Department. Spruill confirmed to The Dispatch that Evans has since resigned from her position.
It's unclear if Peters' termination is related to Evans' alleged embezzlement, and aldermen declined to comment on the matter after Tuesday's meeting, citing it as a personnel issue.
Aldermen named Gerry Logan, the current director of sports and recreation for the Parks and Recreation Department, to an interim director of parks and recreation post at the Dec. 19 meeting.
On Tuesday, Logan declined to comment on Peters' termination.
"Our department is here to serve our citizens," he said. "That's what we'll continue to do."
Peters, when contacted by The Dispatch after Tuesday's meeting said he wasn't aware of what happened with his position. He declined to comment, and also declined to say what might have led to his termination, saying that aldermen hadn't communicated anything with him.
"They haven't contacted me or communicated with me at all," he said.
Peters has served as the director of Starkville Parks and Recreation since the city absorbed the then Starkville Parks Commission in 2015. Before that, he'd served as the director of parks and recreation since December 2011.
Peters' salary was $57,332, according to city Personnel Officer Navarette Ashford.
Peters has faced criticism in the past for his job performance. In July 2016, Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver called for Peters' job, saying that the city parks' poor condition fell on Peters' shoulders. At the time, Carver unsuccessfully attempted to demote Peters to sports coordinator.
Carver, at the time, also blasted the former parks and recreation director, saying the department was "basically falling (apart) from the inside" due to an "if you don't tell on me, I won't tell on you" attitude among its employees.
In September 2016, aldermen created two middle management positions in the parks and recreation department -- director of maintenance and director of sports programming -- that report directly to the parks director. However, aldermen stopped short of changing Peters' duties.
1. Skull identified as missing son of former Columbus police chief COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. Story of Columbus teen on death row airs on Headline News COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Police searching for suspect in death of Starkville woman STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
4. Restaurant tax: Smith, Younger agree on reducing restaurant tax floor COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY