July 4, 2013 11:36:30 AM
The Flat Earth Consul, otherwise known as the Starkville Board of Aldermen, held its first official meeting Tuesday and immediately began its War on Competence, voting 5-2 to fire Lynn Spruill as the city's chief administrative officer.
Although mayor Parker Wiseman has vowed to veto the move, it seems likely that there are enough votes to override the veto and remove the most knowledgeable person in city government from her position.
As CAO under the last two mayors, Spruill has developed a reputation as an able administrator. As a former mayor herself and an attorney, there is no one in city government with a better understanding of the often-complex realities of city administration.
Spruill's dismissal, which came from a written proposal from Ward 1 alderman Ben Carver, stopped just short of calling for a dawn execution. It was a gutless, mean-spirited and insulting spectacle. Carver, along with board members Roy A. Perkins, Henry Vaughn, Lisa Wynn and David Little should be ashamed of their conduct, not simply because they sought to remove Spruill, but for the spineless manner in which the move was executed. You might think that any call for an immediate removal of the CAO would include public discussion of the reasons for making the move. In fact, new board members Scott Maynard and Jason Walker both asked that the motion be tabled long enough to discuss the pros and cons of firing Spruill and other department heads. Not only would the board not discuss Spruill's job performance publicly, the board members refused even to discuss the matter in executive session.
That should tell you all you need to know about the motives behind this move: Rest assured, the reasons for the dismissal are petty and politically-motivated. There is not one person among the four board members who voted to remove Spruill who has enough respect for the citizens of Starkville to articulate publicly the reasons for firing the single most qualified person in the city's government.
Spruill's exit, along with the departure of Ward 2 aldermen Sandra Sistrunk, who was beaten by the spectacularly under-qualified Wynn in the municipal election, leaves a void of expertise that seems almost certain to arrest the city's progress to some degree.
Sistrunk was, by far, the most competent board member when it came to the nuances of the city budget. And while Wiseman, as mayor, is the face of city government, it is clear to anyone with more than a passing knowledge of the city that Spruill has been the policy expert working quietly and effectively behind the scenes.
The combined effect of the departure of Sistrunk and Spruill leaves the city with a huge void in experience and ability.
Now, it is up to the citizens to speak out, not only in support of Spruill, but to demand that the city business is done in an open and honest manner.
To fail to speak now is to submit to four years of political intrigue and petty vendettas that create a climate where the public good is secondary to the childish and self-serving goal of a board whose conduct is an embarrassment to the city.
It has been said that the people usually get the government they deserve.
The question before citizens is simple, then: Is this the kind of government you deserve?
For your convenience, the phone numbers of the aldermen:
Roy A. Perkins, 242-7300; Ben Carver, 769-0792; Henry Vaughn, 769-5049; Lisa Wynn, 324-6494; David Little, 418-9918; Jason Walker, 617-0130; Scott Maynard, 418-9786.
2. Slimantics: Mullen raises the bar of expectations LOCAL COLUMNS
3. Voice of the people: Debbie Wilkins Whitfield LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (VOICE@CDISPATCH.COM)
4. Froma Harrop: Open Internet survives weird politics NATIONAL COLUMNS